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Fertility treatment that is less invasive and less expensive than IVF

Photo: Potent drug-free fertility treatment found
Australian scientists say they have discovered a fertility treatment that will eliminate the need for women to endure daily hormone injections.

Australian-led research has discovered a fertility treatment that is less invasive and less expensive than IVF.

It is called in-vitro maturation (IVM), which has been around for as long as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) but is not as successful in its current form.

For about every baby born via IVM, 1000 have been born to IVF.

However, an international team of scientists - led by Associate Professor Robert Gilchrist of the University of NSW - say they have discovered a way to "bridge the gap" between the techniques.

The scientists found a growth factor, cumulin, that, when added to egg cells in animals, enhances the IVM process significantly.
Their research shows the growth factor improved embryo yield by 50 per cent in pre-clinical human trials.

The advance comes after more than 15 years of research, and has significant implications for infertility and fertility preservation, Prof Gilchrist says.

"We have demonstrated that it is possible to improve egg quality and embryo yield with next to no drugs using potent growth factors produced by the egg," he said.

Standard IVF requires a woman to undergo one to four weeks of hormone stimulation to produce large numbers of eggs before they are removed from the ovary.

IVM retrieves immature eggs and brings them to maturity in a cell culture, and is achieved with minimal hormone stimulation.

It would remove the need for women undergoing fertility treatment to inject themselves with high doses of hormones.

"Apart from the anguish of not having a baby, I think its the next most challenging aspect of IVF. It's painful, there's a lot of discomfort, it's emotionally challenging having to inject yourself every day and there are some medical side effects," Prof Gilchrist said.

It would also give the woman a better chance of becoming pregnant, he said.

The medical director at Monash IVF, Professor Luk Rombauts, says the discovery is a significant step but warns more research is needed.

"A method that will reduce the need for medication will be certainly a significant cost saving and will make the treatment potentially less burdensome for the patient," he said.

What was not known was how safe this advanced form of IVM was for offspring because of the prolonged time the egg remained in the dish, Prof Rombauts said.

It is already known that IVF babies are slightly different from naturally conceived babies in terms of birth weight and mortality.

Safety studies are being done to ensure that altering the conditions of egg maturation using this enhanced IVM technique does not effect the long-term health of offspring.


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