An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has discovered a new effective way to improve fertility treatments without the use of hormone drugs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are estimated 6.9 million women between the ages of 15 to 44 who have used infertility services in the U.S. within the last three years. Current in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment methods require the use of follicle stimulating hormones that help women produce egg cells that are then removed from the ovaries. After that process is complete, the cells undergo a maturation process called IVM that allows them to grow into a cell culture.
However, these current methods only have a success rate of around 40%, and success is in large part affected by the male sperm and the health and age of the woman. Scientists at UNSW have discovered a more efficient and effective way to conduct the IVF procedure at a much lower cost.
The IVF Breakthrough
Current IVF fertility treatment methods require women to use hormone drugs to facilitate the growth of egg cells. However, using these types of drugs comes with a significant risk and some discomfort for women. For example, a commonly prescribed IVF hormone drug, Lupron, can cause an array of uncomfortable side effects such as hot flashes, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping.
|New IVF treatment methods could make IVF more effective and more accessible for many women. Source: nih.gov|
Instead of using these types of hormone drugs for the IVM process, scientists can use a combination of a growth factor cumulin and cAMP-modulators, which act as small signaling molecules to the egg cells. In essence, these two drug-free methods allow eggs to mature without the need for hormones to help women achieve a pregnancy. According to scientists, the result of this type of procedure improves the egg quality and increases the embryo growth rate by 50% with minimal supplemental therapies in the process. This new method is awaiting approval by the FDA, and there are currently safety trials to ensure that these methods do not affect the long-term health of the babies.
For millions of women who have tried fertility services, this new IVF method could lower the cost of treatment significantly. IVF fertility treatment can cost upwards of $12,000 excluding the cost of medications. Certain hormones and other supplements required by the therapy can add an additional $3,000 to $5,000 to the total cost of treatment. It is important to note that while this new breakthrough could help a lot of women undergoing IVF treatments, age and overall health can have a significant impact on the outcome of fertility treatments.