Here's a technological step that will eventually make offspring genetic engineering easier to do. Though that's not why the technology was developed. In Vitro Maturation (IVM), which involves extracting eggs from an ovary at an earlier stage than In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), has been performed at a British hospital with successful births.
The first British babies - boy and girl twins - to be conceived using a new fertility technique have been born at the John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford.
In IVM, eggs are collected from the ovaries while they are still immature. They are then matured in a laboratory for up to 48 hours before being injected with a single sperm - a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). A few days after fertilisation, the embryos are implanted into the mother's womb. Because fewer drugs are used, the cost of each IVM cycle is lower - at £1,700 - than standard IVF which can reach £4,300 per attempt.
IVM also really involves fertilization in vitro (i.e. outside of the body). So it is a form of IVF but called IVM.
IVM is important because it lower costs, reduces pain, reduces time, and lowers risk. Plus, it might work in cases where standard IVF fails. The advances in IVM development fit into a larger trend of improvements in so-called assisted reproduction technologies (ART). The techniques for cost and risk reductions are going to be ready and available when declining costs of gene testing technologies make artificial means of starting pregnancies far more desirable.
In standard IVF, the woman takes fertility drugs for five weeks to stimulate production of her eggs, which are then collected direct from her ovaries under the guidance of ultrasound, before being fertilised in the laboratory. The drugs cost between £600 and £1,500, with charges often higher in London.
The procedure is time consuming and uncomfortable and for the third of women with polycystic ovaries there is a one in 10 risk of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a dangerous side-effect that in rare cases can prove fatal.
Since IVM will reduce risks and costs more women will opt for medical assistance to start pregnancies. The lowered risks will also play a big role in enabling much more widespread use of in vitro techniques once genetic testing advances to the point that women and couples gain the ability to select desired genetic traits. We need cheap DNA testing first to use to discover what all the genetic variations mean. Then with that knowledge prospective parents will use genetic testing to select embryos for implantation. Then selective pressures on human evolution will skyrocket. I figure given the continued rapid decline in the cost of DNA testing technologies we are somewhere between 5 and 15 years away from that turning point.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2007 October 28 08:55 PM Biotech Reproduction|