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Sorting dad out key to fertility

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Thursday, March 13, 2008 | 0 comments

Photo by Dylan Shipp is a symbol of hope from IVF technique
LITTLE Dylan Shipp is a symbol of hope for thousands of couples around the world who are trying to conceive.

The 14-week-old is the first baby born from an Australian IVF technique that claims to drastically increase the chance of falling pregnant compared to the standard procedure.

The method involves using a sperm sorter to rapidly separate healthy sperm from those that have damaged DNA - allowing only the best specimens to fertilise an egg.

Research shows that in 40 per cent of infertile couples it is DNA-damaged sperm - due to age, smoking or exposure to toxins in the workplace - that often accounts for the inability to fall pregnant.

In eliminating damaged sperm from the IVF procedure, doctors are also predicting a higher rate of healthier babies.

For six years Dylan's parents Kim and Richard Shipp tried a variety of methods, including artificial insemination, to have a baby before turning to IVF.

"We would have sacrificed anything - even sold our house - for the opportunity to have something so beautiful," Mrs Shipp, 31, said.

The Dubbo couple were excited to be invited to take part in the clinical trial of the NuSep sperm sorter at Westmead Hospital's Fertility Centre.

Seventeen other couples took part in the trial, which has recorded a 40 per cent pregnancy rate - much higher than most standard IVF procedures.

The trial involved scientists dividing samples of eggs and sperm into two lots. Using the sperm sorter, they graded the sperm and placed only the healthiest specimens with eggs.

The ungraded sperm was then placed with the second lot of eggs.

In the Shipp's case, baby Dylan was conceived from the sorted sperm sample.

Most importantly, the babies born from the trial are healthy, proving that processing sperm - which takes just five minutes - does not, in itself, damage the baby's DNA.

Director of the Westmead Fertility Centre Dr Howard Smith said the results of the sperm sorter were encouraging.

"The sperm separated by this method have very low levels of DNA damage and are expected to improve the chance of a couple having a healthy child," Dr Smith said.

He said the clinic was now preparing to conduct a larger trial with the aim of learning more about the relationship between the sperm sorter and increased pregnancy rates.

Mrs Shipp found out she was pregnant with Dylan within weeks of completing the trial.

"I laughed, I cried and then I started shaking," she said.

"I was ecstatic. I kept asking (husband) Richard to check the pregnancy test to make sure.

"Going through the IVF process was an emotional rollercoaster but it was worth it to have Dylan."

The couple has opted to freeze another seven embryos conceived during the program.


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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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