Monday, July 14, 2008

Frozen embryos 'make healthier babies than fresh ones'

LOL. This is at least believable. It would have to be a pretty tough little embryo to survive freezing

IVF babies born from embryos that are frozen and thawed are less likely to be underweight or premature than those conceived during fresh treatment cycles, research has shown. The findings show that the use of frozen embryos could soon be accepted as completely safe, doctors said.

Another team of researchers told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona that IVF success rates could be improved by as much as 15 per cent with a "viability index" for selecting embryos with the best chance of a healthy pregnancy.

The Danish study into frozen embryos found that the average birth weight of those babies was 200g more than in fresh-embryo IVF. The findings, from a team led by Anja Pinborg, of the Copenhagen University Hospital, are important because women are increasingly encouraged to use one fresh embryo - to avoid multiple births - and to freeze any others produced in the process for later use. Dr Pinborg said it was highly unlikely that freezing improved the health of embryos. The figures could be explained because patients who froze embryos were generally young women with a good prognosis. Poor quality embryos were also more likely to die during the thawing process.

"These findings are reassuring," she told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona. "If our results continue to be positive, frozen embryo replacement can be accepted as a completely safe procedure, which can be used even more frequently."

Scientists from Yale University told the conference that overall IVF success rates could be improved by as much as 15 per cent by a new "fitness test" that can predict which IVF embryos will implant into the womb up to 70 per cent of the time. The non-invasive procedure examines chemical fingerprints in the culture media in which they grow in the laboratory. Scientists said the technology, known as metabolomics, should be ready for widespread use within two to three years, and predicted that the viability index could become a routine part of fertility treatment.

Denny Sakkas, who is leading the research, said: "The other side of IVF is that we probably fail to get patients pregnant about two thirds of the time we do an embryo transfer. One of the reasons is we're not that good at picking the best embryo we have available. "In the clinic, we would probably be looking at a 10 to 15 per cent improvement in pregnancy rates. "It's not going to make a bad embryo good, but it should help us to tell them apart. This definitely could make the difference between people getting pregnant or not."

The average success rate for IVF in Britain is 21.6 per cent across women of all ages, and 29.6 per cent for women under 35.


Patients to grow spare body parts

HEART disease patients could grow "spare body parts" with a radical technique being developed by Melbourne engineers. Swinburne University scientists are poised to put on trial world-first technology that may see entire organs cultivated from just a few human cells. First on the agenda are heart valves that Prof Yosry Morsi believes his team can grow - and have transplanted into humans - within five years. The breakthrough may help up to 6000 Australians a year, revolutionising the surgery that repaired Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's heart about 15 years ago.

Prof Morsi said he believed that the technique might make artificial valves and "tissue" versions from humans, pigs and cows redundant. "We are trying to copy nature," he said. "We'd be using a patient's own cells, so their body is not going to react it."

The key to the technique, which could be tested on animals within a year, is "scaffolding" modelled on a patient's real heart. A cell from the patient's heart is put into the scaffolding, which is left in a machine that simulates human heart conditions. Cells multiply, growing into a replica of the original within 12 weeks. "While we are creating this living tissue, we are subjecting it to exactly the sort of pressures it will be under (in the body), like the pressure of blood flow," Prof Morsi said.

Though other scientists around the world are also in the race to successfully "grow" human organs, it is Swinburne's techniques that put it on track for the big breakthrough.

Prof Frank Rosenfeldt, head of The Alfred's cardiac surgical research unit, said Prof Morsi's work could revolutionise the common but complicated operation. "If a human heart valve can be grown using the patient's tissues, this would be a great advantage," he said. "It would be a living tissue, which might even regenerate and repair itself."

Like Mr Rudd, Melbourne grandfather Bill Wade was given a tissue valve and is enjoying a new lease on life. He was transplanted with a pig's valve - Mr Rudd had a human donor - at The Alfred in February. "I'm happy with this, and they've said it will last 10 to 15 years before I need a replacement, maybe longer," said Mr Wade, from Sandringham. "But if I had the choice (to grow) my own valve, that would just be amazing."


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