Sometimes scientists discover amazingly useful things by accident. Nava Dekel, a professor at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot Israel, was part of a team examining a protein's role in allowing a fertilized egg to implant in a woman's uterus. The team did biopsies on a dozen women who were having problems starting pregnancies and 11 of the 12 became pregnant. The team suspected that biopsy increases fertility and so did a study of biopsy's effect on larger number of women. They discovered that biopsy (presumably of the uterus) doubles the success rate of implanting embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF).
"We decided to conduct a larger study of this phenomenon, and enlarged the group to 140 women. We explained the goals of the study, and 50 of them volunteered to have the biopsies. The rest were used as a control group," she said.
The results showed that the women who underwent the biopsies had a success rate of pregnancy double than the women who underwent the standard IVF treatment without biopsy. In other words, having a biopsy doubled a woman's chances of becoming pregnant.
Three Israeli institutions now use biopsy as a standard way to increase fertility and Professor Dekel expects American fertility clinics to soon copy this practice. This one practice could cause a large increase in the number of babies created by IVF. If the technique boosts the success rate it will also greatly reduce the cost of IVF because it will reduce the number of repeat attempts necessary to start a pregnancy.
Another Israeli study mentioned in the same article found that immune cells play a key role in releasing a compound that causes placental growth. So one cause of infertility might be immune system malfunction.
Methods to increase the reliability of IVF will increase IVF's use both with a female's own eggs and also with egg donation. So I expect this advance will increase the demand for donor eggs. In legal jurisdictions where compensation of egg donors is legal this advance might raise the prices for donor eggs.
IVF is going to become cheaper and more reliable. At the same time, an accelerating rate of discovery of the significance of genetic variations will produce a wealth of knowledge of genetic variations to test for before implantation. This will result in the greater use of Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD or PIGD) used in conjunction with IVF to choose embryos to implant. Cheap IVF and cheap and powerful PGD will increase the attractiveness of IVF as the method to use to start pregnancies. That will lead to an acceleration in the artificial (i.e. by conscious human choice) selection of genes as opposed to natural selection. What would Charles Darwin make of this development?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 September 03 03:20 PM Biotech Reproduction|