Effective fertility treatment without the drugs
What if you could improve your chances of getting pregnant without going through the stress and expense of IVF? Thanks to Australian and Belgian researchers, an enhanced form of IVF’s less invasive sister, in vitro maturation (IVM), may be on the horizon.
VF (in vitro fertilisation) requires women
“The aim of our research has been to restore,
“We have a 50% increase in the efficiency of IVM,
to inject themselves with high doses of follicle-
as far as possible, the natural processes that occur
which brings it to the level of IVF — which means
stimulating hormones for up to 12 days in order
during egg maturation,” said Associate Professor
that in the future, this could be an alternative to IVF.”
to stimulate egg cell growth before these cells are
Gilchrist, who is based at UNSW’s School of
removed from the ovary. While the use of hormone
Women’s and Children’s Health.
Professor Michel De Vos, from UZ Brussel, added that the use of IVM reduces the risk of ovarian
drugs is a proven treatment, its use comes with the
After discovering a new growth factor, called
hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) to zero. “Young
risk of discomfort and medical complications — not
cumulin, the scientists added it to egg cells in the
women facing cancer treatment, who wish to preserve
to mention significant expense for both the patient
laboratory in combination with small signalling
their fertility but often don’t have time to freeze their
and the healthcare system.
molecules called cyclic AMP-modulators. Initial
eggs, will also benefit from this breakthrough,” he said.
IVM, on the other hand, retrieves eggs while
experiments using the technique in pigs showed
With the technique currently awaiting FDA
they are still in the immature stage and brings
an improvement in egg quality and a doubling of
approval, the researchers are conducting safety studies
them to maturity in cell culture, all with minimal
the embryo yield compared to the existing IVM
to ensure that altering the conditions of egg maturation
hormone stimulation. However, clinicians usually
method. In a preclinical trial on human eggs, the
does not affect the long-term health of offspring. And
recommend IVF because pregnancy rates after
researchers likewise found an improvement in egg
even if it is accepted into clinical practice, Associate
IVM have been lower. Now, a research team led
quality and a 50% increase in embryo yield.
Professor Gilchrist does not necessarily see it replacing
by UNSW’s Associate Professor Robert Gilchrist,
“We have demonstrated that it is possible to
in collaboration with the University of Adelaide,
improve egg quality and embryo yield with next to
“We hope that in the future we will have both
UZ Brussel at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and
no drugs, using potent growth factors produced by
IVF and IVM available for patients, depending on
Cook Medical, is looking to even the odds.
the egg,” Associate Professor Gilchrist said.
their individual needs,” he said.
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