January 01, 2007
Lower Fertility Drug Doses Just As Effective For IVF

By maturing eggs with miniscule doses of fertility drugs after the eggs are removed with needles from ovaries fertility researchers have found a way to give women far smaller doses of fertility drugs for in vitro fertilization.

Clinical trials in Denmark have shown that a pioneering technique known as in-vitro maturation (IVM) has a success rate of 30 per cent, comparable to standard IVF procedures. The patient, however, does not have to take expensive fertility drugs that can carry serious side-effects.

This lowers costs, perhaps by as much as half. It also reduces the risks of side effects from fertility drugs. So IVF becomes less risky and less costly at the same time.

Professor Lindenberg, who works at the Nordica Fertility Centre in Copenhagen, explained: “We give a very low dose of a stimulating drug for three days early in the cycle and rescue up to ten eggs. For the first 24 hours a tiny amount of stimulating hormone is added to the culture, in fact one hundreth of the dose the woman would receive, and after that the eggs go on to mature in the culture alone.”

This is great news for those with fertility problems trying to make babies now. But in the longer run this advance will get even more widely used by those who start using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select embryos for implantation based on desired genetic characteristics.

Lower hormone doses reduced the number of genetically damaged embryos produced.

Professor Bert Fauser - who carried out the study - said: 'Women are paying a high price financially and they are risking their health and psychological well being when low doses therapy will work for the majority of patients.'

A second study by Professor Fauser's team at the University of Utrecht found that high stimulation of the ovaries with hormone drugs created more chromosomally damaged embryos compared to women on mild stimulation treatment.

Milder methods to extract eggs will also reduce the risk for egg donors and therefore should lead to an increase the availability of donor eggs.

In the longer run I expect stem cell research to discover methods to create eggs from adult stem cells. This will solve the problem faced by women whose ovaries have gotten too old or never worked well in the first place.

At the conference where these results were presented the general theme was to find ways to reduce the severity of treatments used to boost fertility.

Dr Geeta Nargund, the organiser of the Congress on Natural Cycle and Minimal Stimulation IVF, and head of reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital, London, believes it is time to stop giving women hormones to make them more fertile. In the week that IVF laws had a government shake-up, she says there is a back-to-basics approach to help women conceive that is safer, cheaper and, according to new studies presented by her peers at the congress, just as effective. Dr Nargund has pioneered techniques of scanning the ovaries for blood flow, which enables specialists to accurately predict which eggs are most likely to be fertilised successfully, doing away with the need to artifically stimulate the production of lots of eggs.

A new gene chip that can test 650,000 single letter genetic differences at once means we are getting close to finding large numbers of useful genetic variations. What causes IQ differences? We're going to know. We are finding out what causes hair color, skin color, and eye color differences. We are going to find out what causes differences in height, musculature, fat distribution (including breast size of course), teeth color, teeth enamel quality, facial shape, ear shape, and everything else that makes us look or think or feel differently from each other.

We are at the tip of a flood of information about human genetic differences. Prospective parents are going to use that information to choose embryos to get the kinds of kids they want. Look at brothers and look at sisters. Two brothers from the same parent can be greatly different in height, eye color, hair color, physical attractiveness, smarts, aggressiveness, and many other qualities. Couples are going to have the information they need to select among which of their own genetic variations they will pass down to their future children and I predict a substantial fraction of prospective parents will jump at the chance to make smarter and better looking children who are less prone to crime, depression, and assorted other problems.

The ability to fertilize several embryos, do genetic testing on embryos, and then choose the genetically most preferred embryo will accelerate the rate of human evolution. While many of the effects, such as intelligence boosting, will be beneficial I worry that different groups will go for different ideals and basically cause the human race to go off in divergent directions. I'm especially worried about divergences in that cause different tendencies in beliefs and moral sensibilities.

Will some choose genes that make their offspring more likely to be religious while others choose genes that make their offspring more likely to be skeptical? Will some choose genes which make people more likely to feel morally outraged while others choose genes that make their kids more amoral? Seems to me such choices will become possible and the human race could split into groups that cognitively see the world so differently that wars between them become inevitable.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 January 01 06:33 PM  Biotech Reproduction

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