Breakthrough raises hopes for better IVF success rate; New screening process helps find best eggs.
A BRITISH woman has become the world's first IVF patient made pregnant using pioneering techniques doctors hope will more than double success rates, it was announced last night.
The 41-year-old, who had suffered two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, was finally fertilised using new technology allowing scientists to screen eggs without freezing them.
Liverpool-born Dr Simon Fishel, from Care Fertility Group, said the milestone demonstrated the "wonderful ingenuity of humankind."
He added: "One of the main reasons why IVF doesn't work is chromosomal abnormality.
"Full chromosome analysis offers huge hope to many couples who have a poor chance of conceiving, those who have had many failures, and for those who want to maximise their chance at each attempt. We now have the best tool for achieving this."
Up to half of eggs in younger women, and up to 75% in women over 39 are chromosomally abnormal.
It is now possible to test eggs and embryos in an IVF cycle, evaluate all their chromosomes and select the most viable embryos.
Dr Fishel, a former pupil of King David School, Childwall, said: "We are delighted to announce the world's first pregnancy using real-time polar body array Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) and the baby is due later in the spring.
"This screening method has the potential to improve birth rates, minimise the incidence of miscarriage and birth defects caused by chromosomal irregularity."
Array CGH enables doctors to test chromosomes following biopsy of a body inside the egg and is unique because embryos do not need to be frozen while results are obtained.
The speed of this method means fresh embryos can be transferred with an increased chance of successful implantation.
The treatment, which is still in the trial process, costs pounds 1,950 in addition to the standard treatment for women who have repeatedly failed to get pregnant. It will not be initially offered on the NHS.
The woman, who is due to give birth in two months, became pregnant after 13 previous failed IVF cycles. She has chosen to keep her identity secret.
Eight eggs were tested, and two found to be chromosomally normal. These two embryos were then chosen for transfer.
The latest milestone comes after the CARE Fertility Group collaborated with an American team in conducting the first UK trial of CGH IVF last year.
The previous trial resulted in doubling the number of embryos that implant in the womb from 25% to 50% - but embryos still had to be frozen before transfer.
Doctors welcomed the research but urged caution. Stuart Lavery, a senior consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, described the pregnancy as a "significant step forward in our understanding of the complexities of early human development".
He added: "Although it is still at a very early stage, this technique may offer a new diagnostic and therapeutic hope to couples who suffer from repeated implantation failure in IVF."
Around 6,000 babies a year are born in the UK to otherwise infertile couples as a result of IVF.
It was developed in the 1970s and the first British test tube baby was Louise Brown, born in 1978.
Dr Simon Fishel