World's first baby born using drug-free fertility technique

Last updated at 13:06 02 July 2007


The world's first baby has been born as the result of a new drug free fertility technique which can be used by women with a common hormonal disorder or cancers, scientists said today.

The girl was born in Canada. Three other women are now pregnant by the same method of taking immature eggs, maturing them in the laboratory and freezing them until they are thawed and fertilised.

The research, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lyon today, will offer hope to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome - which footballer's wife Louise Redknapp had - and cancer patients who have had aggressive treatment which has left them infertile.

It also removes the risks of overstimulating women with hormone drugs which can be fatal.

Twenty women with polycystic ovarian syndrome took part in the research at the McGill Reproductive Center, Montreal. Dr Hananel Holzer, who led the team, said the technique will offer hope for some women who cannot undergo normal hormone injections.

"Until now, it was not known whether eggs collected from unstimulated ovaries, matured in vitro and then frozen, could survive thawing, be fertilised successfully and result in a viable pregnancy after embryo transfer," Dr Holzer said.

"We have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to do this and, so far, we have achieved four successful pregnancies, one of which has resulted in a live birth. The other three pregnancies are ongoing.

"These results are preliminary and the pregnancy rate is probably associated with a learning curve; indeed three of the pregnancies were achieved in the last five patients."

Dr Holzer warned that the research was still in its early stages and that it had not yet been proved in cancer patients. But he added that it will offer them hope.

He said: "It has the potential to become one of the main options for fertility preservation, especially for patients who cannot have ovarian stimulation and all patients who do not have enough time to undergo ovarian stimulation.

"However, we have to remember that these are only preliminary results from a small number of patients who were not cancer patients themselves. As for all methods for fertility preservation, they should be looked at as preliminary and experimental. We need to inform the patients about the early stage of these treatments without giving any false hopes."

The researchers matured the eggs in the laboratory for between 24 and 48 hours and 215 were frozen for a few months.

Once thawed, 148 eggs had survived and 64 were implanted in the women. Dr Holzer believes that the success rate can be improved by adjusting the substance the eggs are matured in.

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