Fertility experts in Southampton have developed a tiny 5p-sized device that monitors oxygen, pH and temperature levels from inside the womb for the first time.
Measuring 3.8mm in diameter, it is implanted in a similar way to a contraceptive coil for up to seven days and sends readings wirelessly to a data chip attached to a special set of underwear worn by the patient.
It is hoped the device will help clinicians understand what a ‘healthy’ womb environment looks like by comparing the range of levels found in women who have conceived naturally with patients from fertility and miscarriage clinics.
Around one in seven couples in the UK – or 3.5 million people – experience difficulties conceiving and, in a quarter of cases, it isn't possible to identify the cause.
“We are extremely excited about the impact this device could have,” said Professor Ying Cheong, a consultant in reproductive medicine at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust who is leading a world-first study into use of the technology involving 30 patients at Complete Fertility Centre Southampton.
“Currently, fertility tests take time and some couples may not receive a diagnosis for their issues straight away and, in some cases, not at all, so we are constantly in need of new ways of establishing problems.
“By establishing a ‘normal’ range of levels which can be compared to those who experience difficulties conceiving, there is the potential to diagnose fertility issues sooner and inform the development of new treatments.”
Prof Cheong, who is clinical director of Complete Fertility Centre Southampton and a professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Southampton, said the device could lead to “big changes” in fertility care worldwide.
“We want to get to the stage where we know what a healthy womb environment looks like and to make measuring levels inside the womb as simple as taking a blood pressure reading,” she said.
“If we can prove this device works successfully and is comfortable and safe, then we have the chance to make big changes to fertility care across the NHS and internationally and help to give many more women the best chance of conceiving.”
The device was developed with funding from a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Innovation for Invention grant and in partnership with medical device company VivoPlex.
Posted on Saturday 22 September 2018