Novel technique may increase success of infertility treatment

New York, Nov 13 (IANS) In a major breakthrough, US researchers have developed a new method to transmit a mother’s genetic material into donor eggs, that can potentially treat infertility in women of advanced maternal age.

Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), in Oregon, US, discovered that it was possible to regenerate human eggs or oocytes — the cellular beginning of an embryo — by making use of genetic material that normally goes to waste.

This genetic material comes from small cells called polar bodies that form off of eggs and contain the same genetic material as in a woman’s egg nucleus.

Until now, polar bodies had never been shown to be potentially useful for generating functional human eggs for fertility treatments.

When fertilised with sperm, the new oocytes developed into viable embryos, the authors said.

“We know that fertility declines as women gets older. This is potentially a way to double the number of eggs we’re able to get from one session of in vitro fertilisation,” said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, director at the OHSU.

In addition, the technique may also present another opportunity to help women known to have mutations in their mitochondria — the powerhouses of cells — which can further result in debilitating forms of disease in children.

“This new technique maximises the chances of families having a child through in vitro fertilisation free of genetic mutations,” Mitalipov added.

Though the technique could be years away from progressing to clinical trials, the advancement eventually could be significant for women of advanced maternal age, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.