Get Cracking

Some researchers believe women sometimes have trouble getting pregnant because their fertilized eggs won’t hatch.

Clinicians from Beckman Laser Institute in Irvine and California Fertility Associates in Santa Monica are collaborating on trials that use a laser to zap off a piece of the membranous eggshell, presumably freeing embryos for implantation.

The laser, now sold widely overseas, is available in the U.S. for research use only.

The manufacturer, Albuquerque-based Cell Robotics International Inc., is sponsoring clinical trials locally and elsewhere this year in the hope of applying for regulatory approval to sell the instrument to fertility specialists.


The laser is part of a Cell Robotics workstation that includes a microscope, computer and viewing screen. It costs about $50,000.

Mitchel Schiewe of California Fertility Associates said tests in mice show that the technique is safe and appears to promote hatching.

In addition, he said, the technique has been used in Europe to generate human pregnancies that resulted in 50 normal births.

Researchers involved in the trials say the laser technology might enable lab technicians to “crack” eggshells more consistently and accurately than existing techniques.


California Fertility Associates aims to recruit up to 50 women for its study this year and has already enrolled three, Schiewe said.


Barbara Marsh can be reached via e-mail at