Recent Advances in Fertility Treatment
Couples in India are increasingly opting for late parenthood. Women in general have started having children much later due to lifestyle reasons (increased marital age, more working women) and clinical factors (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometrial tuberculosis). Simultaneously, there is an increase in the prevalence of male infertility– attributed to 30-40 percent of infertility amongst infertile couples in India. However, scientists are constantly coming up with new medical advancements that enable older women, irrespective of their age, to give birth to their own biological children.
Revolutionary Research Is Paving the Way
Given below are some innovative, path-breaking treatment methodologies:
In-Vitro Maturation (IVM):
IVM is the process by which eggs are removed from ovaries while they are still immature and matured in a laboratory before being fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The resulting embryos are transferred to the womb. As compared to In-vitro Fertilization (IVF), IVM is less expensive, has a shorter treatment regimen and eliminates the risk of the patient developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
Three Parent Babies:
The United Kingdom is the first country to permit ‘three parent babies’, where healthy DNA from a second woman can replace a small amount of faulty DNA in a mother’s egg. The baby can inherit genes from two mothers and one father, preventing certain mitochondrial diseases and some heart and liver conditions, from being passed onto children.
This is a new pre-implantation genetic test allowing couples to screen embryos before they undergo fertility treatment. By using DNA fingerprinting, it prevents passing on diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and two genes that increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Egg and Ovarian Tissue Freezing:
Eggs or ovarian tissue are collected and stored so that women can have children at a later date. This is helpful for women who are at risk for early menopause, who have cancer (as chemotherapy and radiation treatment can affect fertility) or those with a genetic disorder.
Baby Vincent (interestingly meaning ‘to win’ in Latin) was the first baby to be born to a Swedish couple after a womb was transplanted in her from an older relative. One in 4,500 women are born without a womb and many women are forced to remove their uterus due to diseases like cancer. The UK has recently given the go-ahead for ten women to go ahead with the procedure using uterus’s from cadavers. It is encouraging that India is also moving in the right direction with regard to this treatment.
Canada started a new chapter in medical history with the birth of Baby Zain where stem cells of a healthy, yet-to-be-developed egg stem cells and purified them to extract their mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells). This was added to poor-quality eggs to improve the IVF results.
Several other advancements are in the pipeline and expect to take shape over the next 8-9 years. These include growing sperm and egg cells from regular cells (regular or somatic cells are converted into stem cells and then into egg cells or sperms) and genome editing (where the genes of human embryos are edited to fix genetic abnormalities).
Clearly the future of fertility treatment is bright. Dramatic improvements in medical treatments will allow anyone who longs for a baby to realize their dreams.
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