Breakthrough in fertility treatment using less drugs and cheaper than IVF

Women battling infertility may soon achieve their baby dreams with a less expensive, less invasive and less drug-reliant alternative to in-vitro fertilisation.

An Australian team including University of New South Wales Oocyte Biology Research Unit head Robert Gilchrist is working to improve the success rate of a treatment called in-vitro maturation (IVM), which aims to mature eggs in the laboratory to the same stage as those usually harvested for IVF.

This eliminates potentially two weeks of hormone injections women endure during a full stimulated IVF cycle and cuts the month-long treatment process down to just days.

“This technique has been around actually for as long as IVF but the reason why it is not currently widely used is because the success rates are lower than IVF,” Mr Gilchrest told the Huffington Post.

“What our research project is aiming to do is bridge that gap. It looks like a very small gap but patients, doctors and clinics are all exquisitely sensitive to success rates.”

Women now have about a third less chance of falling pregnant with IVM compared to IVF, but the collaboration between the University of NSW, the University of Adelaide and a Belgian university hospital is changing that, with human pre-clinical trials successfully doubling the amount of embryos produced in an IVM cycle.

The use of two new molecules – cumulin and cAMP – to help mature eggs in the laboratory have led to the breakthrough that, once approved by US Food and Drug Administration and proven safe, could be available in Australia by 2020.

Improvements to this line of treatment also offer new hope to cancer patients, women with polycystic ovaries and others who find IVF difficult.

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