In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has helped women conceive children amid their reproductive problems. As women get older, however, the chances of successful IVF treatments become scarce.
Now, older women may have a greater chance of becoming mothers, thanks to a new IVF technique that boosts fertility by rejuvenating eggs.
British doctors have asked permission to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA) so they could begin a pilot study involving 20 women to test their technique. If approved, the trial may start as early as 2017.
"It may provide new, revolutionary options for women to have their own genetic child," says Simon Fishel, founder of Care Fertility.
Men continue to produce fresh sperm cells during their entire lives. Women, however, lose the quality of their egg cells as they age. As such, growin older means more difficult conception for women.
According to records, the success rates of IVF treatments in women aged under 35 is 32 percent, while those aged between 38 to 39 years old have 21 percent chances of success. The number continues to decrease as women, leaving those between the age of 43-44 years old and those above 44 with only 5 percent and less than 2 percent success rates, respectively.
Despite this, scientists say there is a way. Eggs may be rejuvenated by replacing its "batteries," called mitochondrial DNA. A certain egg precursor cell in the ovaries carries younger mitochondrial DNA, which may be harvested and replaced into an older egg.
The technique is based on the concept that an aging mitochondria is one of the most influential factors behind the failure of a fertilized egg to develop into a viable embryo. Hence, changing it with fresher ones may produce good results.
Amid the possible breakthrough, the concept has already garnered critics. Some scientists say there is no sufficient proof behind the technique or even the presence of these so-called egg precursor cells. For these scientists, HEFA must thoroughly assess the proposal as this may cause concerns in the health of children born through this technique.
Fishel remains optimistic and says there is evidence that injecting a healthier mitochondria into an IVF egg may raise the success of turning it into a healthy embryo.
The technique was developed by Boston-based OvaScience, which was founded by fertility specialists. The company called their invention Augment, which the U.S. FDA has yet to approve, saying it needs extensive testing. With this, Britain may be the first in the world to implement this method.
Photo: Luigi Guarino | Flickr