Another first for Canada's McGill University and Dr. Seang Lin Tan -- a 10 month old baby is the first to have been born as the result of a frozen egg used in the in vitro maturation (IVM) process. Okay, this gets complicated... there's in vitro fertilization aka IVF, which is the technique used to make "test tube babies". Then there's oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, which is becoming more readily available as a conception delaying tactic. So little Noorfatima Khan was created when the McGill Centre staff collected -- here's the really different part, the part of the techniques that vary between IVF
eggs from her mom's ovaries, then facilitated their maturation in vitro, froze the resulting mature eggs and later thawed them for use in IVF. Got that? Just what IS the point of the ever-increasing alphabet soup? Why is IVM so great, when clinicians seem to really be mastering the whole IVF thing? Well, for one reason, IVM -- collecting eggs before they're fully matured and ready to be ovulated from the ovary -- doesn't require the horde o' fertility drugs that IVF does. That cuts your ART by more than half in some instances. Drugs are by far the most costly aspect of IVF treatment for many patients. It also means not having to endure painful and inconvenient injections, and all of the possible adverse effects of the drugs. Oocyte cryo is becoming more user-friendly as lab technicians and fertility clinicians zero in on the best means of freezing and then safely thawing the fragile egg cell. Right now, its primary use is for women who are trying to preserve their fertility prior to undergoing oft-sterilizing cancer treatment. At least one thriving business, Extend Fertility, is also using the technology to cash in on the desires of young women wanting to put off biological motherhood until later in life. McGill researchers feel that the combination of these technologies will increase the time-sensitive options needed by women pursuing cancer treatment. They also believe that the already slim (in Canada) pool of egg donors may expand a bit if donors don't have to undergo the typical fertility drug regimen and challenging cycle-sync issues of donor egg IVF. Dr. Lin Tan's colleague, McGill scientist Ri-Cheng Chian, says in this article for the Globe and Mail
that the average number of eggs produced in traditional IVF (did you ever think this technology would be referred to as "traditional"?!) is 10 eggs per cycle, entirely due to the use of super-ovulating fertility drugs for the sole purpose of increasing the odds of successful pregnancy outcomes. He goes on to state that an incredible 50 percent of those eggs wind up being chromosomally abnormal. The IVM process is no fast track -- at McGill, where they've pioneered the technique, the pregnancy rate is only about 20 percent, as compared to about 35 percent averages for IVF (per SART reports). But in a way it's a step back to breathe a bit and reconsider the involvement of nature in the conception process.