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The Latest Infertility Treatment

The process involves harvesting eggs from a donor.

The Latest Infertility Treatment

A pregnant woman, a sign of fertility

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In 2018, a 32-year-old Greek woman, who’d previously undergone four rounds of IVF and two operations for endometriosis, when it was revealed her doctors were using a controversial fertility treatment – Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (or MRT) – in an effort to help her get pregnant.  In April of this year, thanks to the procedure – although technically speaking, he has genetic material from three parents. While the idea of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy has been around since the 90s and even produced some births in the US, it was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2001.The process involves harvesting eggs from a donor, removing their nuclei, and then inserting DNA from the mother in their place before inseminating the modified eggs and transferring the resulting embryos to the mother’s womb.Mitochondria, as you may remember from school biology classes, are the ‘powerhouses of the cell’, converting nutrients into energy through cellular respiration. They are found in all cells - and they contain their own DNA. Every human alive today possesses mitochondrial DNA which they , although it only makes up about 1% of our overall DNA complement. Because donor eggs used in the process of MRT will contain their own mitochondria (and therefore their own DNA), embryos created and children born through this process will carry a tiny fraction, albeit only about 0.2%, of a third parent’s DNA.  This process, which was given the go-ahead for , has two main applications. For women with , the procedure can eliminate the risk of their passing a potentially deadly condition on to their children. The more controversial use of MRT is a fertility treatment option for women who have been unsuccessful with traditional IVF treatment. As yet, some scientists argue, we don’t have sufficient data on the risks of that 0.2% ‘other’ DNA to warrant its use over existing options.        For women approaching their 30th birthday, there’s an entirely different way to which is becoming more and more popular – freezing some of their eggs so they can continue to focus on their career now while keeping the option to start a family open later. While society and the role which women play might have changed dramatically, our biology, sadly, has not kept pace. And while fertility science enjoys some of the most rapid advances, improvements and innovations in the medical field, a woman’s age (or more accurately the age of her eggs) is still predominantly the most significant factor in whether she’ll have a successful pregnancy or not.   The involves harvesting eggs from a woman’s ovaries and placing them in a state of deep freeze using liquid nitrogen until they're ready to be thawed and used. The procedure has become impressively successful, with birth rates using frozen eggs now comparable to using fresh ones.   In addition, IVF treatment is also becoming safer – with a marked decline in the cases of multiple births (which are riskier than single childbirths). But listen up fellas, because it’s not just women whose biological clocks are ticking…Over the past few years, several studies on the effects of ‘advanced’ paternal age on the resulting offspring have made the news, indicating possible links between older fathers (we’re talking about 35 and above) and , risk of miscarriage and birth defects, and in children.Gloria Bachmann, MD, and the director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School :“Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle… As a society, perhaps men should be encouraged to bank sperm before their 35th or, at least, their 45th birthday, to decrease the increased risks on maternal and fetal and child health which have been shown to occur as a result of aging sperm.” Heterosexual couples who want children but feel they are not yet in a financial position to start their family may well want to undergo egg and sperm freezing as a joint venture!  And for the survival of the species in an entirely different context, an intriguing Spanish study has found that frozen sperm is able to conditions.

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