Lab+Life Scientist Oct/Nov 2016

Page 43

fertility treatment

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. |

IVF entirely.

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