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Brighter outlook for IVF babies

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | 0 comments

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Scientists have created a new type of culture which they say will help embryos better survive their five days out of the wombIVF pregnancy rates could double and the incidence of serious complications, such as miscarriage and pre-eclampsia, could be halved after a technological breakthrough in fertility research.

Scientists at the University of Adelaide have created a new type of culture which they say will help embryos better survive their five days out of the womb, and help the foetus and placenta develop more normally.

The head of the research team, Claire Roberts, said yesterday the culture, used successfully to grow mice embryos, was "absolutely fantastic" and could change the face of fertility treatments.

"Until now, the culture most commonly used has not been particularly conducive to the survival of embryos, which is one of the main reasons we don't have a very high success rate in IVF," she said.

Women in their 20's have about a 40 per cent chance of falling pregnant through IVF with that dropping to about 15 per cent for women in their late 30's.

But the new culture contains three molecules which exist in the birth tract fluids of all mammals, making it easier for embryos to grow and implant successfully in the uterus.

"It has long been thought that the culture used in IVF alters the way the embryo develops and affects the interaction between the embryo and the mother, which compromises the development of the placenta," Associate Professor Roberts said.

Poor placental growth results in miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, haemorrhage and premature births. Women who have undergone IVF are three times more at risk of these complications than women who have conceived naturally.

Human trials are expected to begin within two years and if successful, could help the 15 per cent of couples who are infertile or suffer from recurrent miscarriages.

The new culture could also help researchers achieve the "holy grail" of IVF - a single embryo transfer, which reduces the incidence of multiple pregnancies and maximises the chance of a successful pregnancy.

A fertility expert with IVF Australia, Michael Chapman, said it was still difficult to artificially mimic the human body when creating embryo cultures.

"Mice are not men - or women, so we have to approach this with a fair degree of caution, but if it is proven safe in humans this is a great step forward," Professor Chapman said.


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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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