Women who have struggled to start a family for years have become pregnant under an Australian trial of a new in-vitro fertilisation treatment.
Associate Professor Louise Hull says 20 couples have participated in the Adelaide trial so far with a 43 per cent pregnancy success rate.
The couples have all had a lot of IVF treatments, poor embryo development or have suffered miscarriages.
"We're hoping that it is helping couples who just need more than standard IVF," said Assoc Prof Hull, researcher at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute and Fertility SA fertility specialist.
"We've had good pregnancy rates in the group of patients where they've had a lot of treatment before, so we think that's a group that's going to most benefit from it."
The Adelaide trial and another in Japan are the first to use the BlastGen treatment option, the next phase of an EmbryoGen trial using a treatment developed by University of Adelaide researchers.
Assoc Prof Hull said the Adelaide trial had the most advanced pregnancy, with a woman now at the 24-25 week mark.
Both EmbryoGen and BlastGen contain a growth factor or signalling molecule called GM-CSF, which is found naturally in the mother's uterus and protects the embryo from stress, making it stronger and more robust in the days after conception.
"By using the BlastGen treatment for IVF, the embryo is being cultured in an environment that closely mimics what occurs naturally in a mother during conception," Assoc Prof Hull said.
"As a result the embryos grow in a more natural environment than they do in traditional IVF treatments."
The embryos cultured in the EmbryoGen media were transferred at day three, whereas BlastGen uses an additional two days.
Assoc Prof Hull said the extra two days seemed to be helping the embryos.
"If you're putting them back on day three you know a third of those embryos won't take, whereas if you grow them out it's a way of selecting ones that are going to give you the best chance of pregnancy," Assoc Prof Hull said.
She said it meant there could be single embryo transfers, reducing the need to put two back at once and therefore the risk of twins.
THE ADELAIDE TRIAL OF TREATMENT FOR COUPLES UNDERGOING IVF
- EmbryoGen and BlastGen treatments developed by University of Adelaide researchers
- Research started by Professor Sarah Robertson, director of the university's Robinson Research Institute, 25 years ago
- Partnered with Danish company Origio A/S in 2006 to develop EmbryoGen
- Technology now used in hundreds of IVF clinics in more than 40 countries
- About 20 couples so far
- Seven pregnancies, from 16 pregnancy tests returned
- Randomised control trial, so don't know who had and did not have treatment
- Two-year trial for 100 patients
- Another five couples enrolled
- 75 more places available
- Criteria for participants: Couples undergoing IVF; woman aged 25-41; have had at least two embryo transfers without implantation, poor embryo development or at least one miscarriage
* For information contact Fertility SA (08) 8100 2900.