Fertility · Health · Research

Blog series post #4: the next steps for IVF Part 2

Better late than never is the second part of my round-up of IVF news:

New TAC-seq method

A new molecular engineering method called TAC-seq (Targeted Allele Counting by sequencing) has been developed by researchers in Finland, Estonia and Sweden. It is hoped it will be introduced into the healthcare system this year in the form of an endometrial receptivity test. The method measures, at an extremely high level of precision, the number of DNA and RNA molecules used as biomarkers in clinical samples. A biomarker can be any molecule whose existence or absence is measurable and which gives information about a patient’s state of health. The new method’s use in endometrial receptivity testing is to determine the best possible time to transfer an embryo to increase the likelihood of IVF success, helping women with recurrent implantation failures. The method can also be used for non-invasive prenatal genetic testing to detect the most common fetal chromosomal disorders as well as for precise microRNA profiling in different body fluids without the need for a biopsy.

Find out more here.

‘Three parent babies’

Professor Doug Turnbull has pioneered a treatment for families who are affected by disorders in mitochondria (mitochondrial diseases are genetic conditions affecting human cells, with symptoms including muscle weakness, blindness, deafness, seizures, learning disabilities, diabetes, and heart and liver failure – there is no cure for mitochondrial DNA disease and affected children often sadly die in early infancy). His team has developed a way to have unaffected children by the creation of what are called ‘three parent babies’, with a second ‘mother’ providing normal mitochondria. After a long period of consultation, the Newcastle Fertility Centre was granted the first UK licence in 2017 to offer mitochondrial donation by pronuclear transfer, a way to take the parents DNA and combine it with mitochondria from an egg donor. It is hoped this will prove successful in the very near future.

Read more here.

New time-lapse technology

Scientists have created a form of time lapse technology that allows more understanding of how embryos develop, enabling them to make more informed embryo selections for implantation. A recent study has found it boosts the number of IVF births by a quarter. The research, led by leading fertility expert Professor Simon Fishel, included 24,000 treatment records and compared IVF babies born without the technique to those born using it. The time lapse technology is used to check the development of the embryos in incubators at regular intervals. Photographs are taken every 10 to 20 minutes and the computer then uses an algorithm to analyse the development of the embryos. Using this new technology, the computer is also able to identify those at risk of having chromosomal abnormalities. Previously embryos would have to be taken out of their temperature controlled incubator, with a snapshot taken every 24 hours, which potentially exposed them to damage. The time lapse technology increases the cost of IVF, but also increases the chances of it being a success. Currently, around 24% of implanted IVF embryos result in live births but experts believe that using the new time lapse technology, this figure could increase to as high as 74% once the technique is perfected. There has also been progress in using AI technology as part of embryo screening.

Read more about the initial research here.

‘IVF: 6 Million Babies Later’ exhibition

To mark the 40th birthday of IVF, the ‘IVF: 6 Million Babies Later’ exhibition ran at the Science Museum from July to November last year, but there is still a very useful blog post up, which can be found here, that details the IVF revolution and includes some fascinating information.

Fertility Events

Fertility Fest was founded by Jessica Hepburn, author of The Pursuit of Motherhood, and is run in partnership with theatre producer Gabby Vautier. It is the world’s first arts festival dedicated to fertility, infertility, modern families and the science of making babies. Next year will be the third festival and the biggest yet with four weeks of performances and panel discussions. It will take place from Tuesday 23rd April to Saturday 18th May 2019 at The Barbican Centre in London. You can read more by visiting www.fertilityfest.com, where you can also find details of the Fertility Shows in Manchester and London.

European Fertility Week (EFW) takes place in the first full week of November each year, and aims both to raise awareness of infertility and to convey the issues faced by people with infertility. EFW events take place both on social media and through shows organised by member associations in their respective countries. For more information visit www.fertilityeurope.eu/european-fertility-week

Infertility talk on social

There are some great Instagram accounts that provide invaluable resource and support for those dealing with issues of infertility. Here are a few suggestions on who to follow:

uberbarrensclub – Katy Lindemann writes openly and honestly about long-term infertility

infertilityillustrated – the frustrations of infertility voiced through brilliant drawings

ihadamiscarriage – great account dealing predominantly with the pain and silence around miscarriage but useful to all those dealing with infertility

zita.west – informative account looking at a holistic approach to IVF from the founder of the Zita West Fertility Clinic

fertilitynetworkuk – the national charity for anyone who has experienced fertility problems

ivfbabble – an informative online fertility magazine supporting those trying to conceive

Next time I’ll look at the growing call to properly acknowledge birth trauma and obstetric violence.

Meanwhile, you can find the first part of this IVF update here.

Image from Pixabay

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