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Screening technique aims to improve IVF succe -

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Screening technique aims to improve IVF success rate

The World Today - Wednesday, 28 January , 2009 12:39:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Scientists in Britain have developed a new IVF screening technique that could
double the success rate of pregnancies.

They've been able to test eggs for chromosomal anomalies that can cause IVF to fail.

So far, there's been one successful pregnancy.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: IVF can be a long and difficult process and the success rate isn't high.

Two out of three attempts fail. Scientists say this is mainly due to chromosomal anomalies in a
woman's egg.

British fertility expert Dr Simon Fishel says if an egg has an extra or missing chromosome, the
chance of miscarriage is high.

SIMON FISHEL: We know that 70 per cent of embryos do not implant either naturally or after IVF and
part of that reason is chromosomal problems.

JENNIFER MACEY: Dr Fishel is the director of the CARE Fertility Group in Nottingham in the UK,
which has just developed a new technique to screen eggs.

The technique is called comparative genomic hybridisation, and it's the first to analyse all 23
chromosomes of an egg within 24 hours.

Dr Fishel explains how.

SIMON FISHEL: So we have a technology where whereby we use a tiny laser beam to cut a hole in the
outer shell of the egg, and using a very, very tiny pipette that's about - that's probably 10 times
smaller than a single strand of human hair, we can go in through that hole and take out this tiny
little polar body.

With that polar body, we can then use the chromosomes in there for a complete analysis of the
chromosomes that will be in the egg.

JENNIFER MACEY: A similar screening technique has already been developed by researchers at
Melbourne IVF.

But the director, Dr John McBain, says their method of first freezing the embryos takes much

JOHN MCBAIN: We had the first three pregnancies in the world using this technique. The problem was
it took six days to get a result. Now, it's a remarkable advance in molecular biology that this can
be done in 24 hours.

JENNIFER MACEY: And the scientists in the UK say they've already had success. Dr Simon Fishel says
a British woman has conceived after having her eggs screened in this way.

SIMON FISHEL: We've only just started the technique and we did it on a woman who had 13 previous
failures of IVF and she also was 41 years of age. She's now approaching her third trimester of

JENNIFER MACEY: But Australian scientists are warning women desperate to have children not to get
their hopes up just yet.

Sydney University's Associate Professor Peter Illingworth, who's the president of the Fertility
Society of Australia says more clinical trials are needed.

PETER ILLINGWORTH: This new technique is a very exciting technological development. However, it
will take years for this technique to be fully evaluated and developed into something that will
help women to have babies more easily.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The president of the Fertility Society of Australia, Associate Professor Peter
Illingworth ending that report by Jennifer Macey.