Health and Medicine

Major Improvement to Drug-Free Fertility Treatment

A successful trial of an enhanced method for enabling infertile women to have children, without the cost and side-effects associated with in-vitro fertilization (IVF), has been presented at a conference in Australia.

An estimated 5 million children have been born around the world using IVF. Around the time of IVF’s invention, an alternative technology, known as in-vitro maturation (IVM), was developed. IVM avoids the follicle-stimulating hormones used in IVF, bypassing many unpleasant side-effects and much of IVF’s costs. Nevertheless, IVM’s lower success rate has seen it largely ignored in much of the world, but around 5,000 babies have been born as a result of this technique, mostly in East Asia and Scandinavia.

IVM involves collecting immature eggs and bringing them to maturity in cell culture. A year ago, Dr Robert Gilchrist of the University of New South Wales published the results of a study on an improved version of IVM in pigs, in which he demonstrated a doubling of the rate of conceptions compared to traditional methods.

At the annual meeting of the Australian Society for Reproductive Biology, Gilchrist announced the results of the first human trial of his technique, showing a 50 percent improvement compared to traditional IVM. Gilchrist told IFLScience the difference probably lies in the fact that the pigs used in the experiment were young and healthy, while the human trial was done on infertile patients, most of whom were older and often carrying ovarian cysts.

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