Canada is leading the charge when it comes to stem-cell assisted birth.
Doctors and scientists in Toronto delivered Zain Rajani on May 8th using a new technique that dramatically improves the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Zain is the first of what is expected to be a wave of babies born this summer using the breakthrough discovery.
The method helps a woman’s older eggs “act young again” by strengthening them using stem cells of pristine, yet-to-be developed eggs. A significant discovery among these cells is that they can only develop into eggs, unlike other types of stem cells that can develop into any cell in the body.
“We could be on the cusp of something incredibly important,” says Dr. Owen Davis, president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). “Something that is really going to pan out to be revolutionary.”
Zain’s mother, 34-year-old Natasha Rajani, had a small piece of her ovarian tissue removed by doctors at Toronto’s First Steps Fertility, who removed the eggs’ stem cells from the tissue and extracted their mitochondria. This treatment to improve a patient’s egg health is called AUGMENT.
Adding the mitochondria from these egg precursor cells to Natasha’s poor quality eggs and her husband Omar’s sperm dramatically improved their IVF results – Natasha produced 15 eggs, four of which were fertilized, and one of which her doctor thought was good enough to transfer.
“I knew it wasn’t the best-quality embryo, but it was what she had,” says. Dr. Marjorie Dixon, of First Steps Fertility.
Certainly a significant improvement over the previous situation: several years marked by an inability to get pregnant and a miscarriage.
The Rajanis created four embryos through the AUGMENT method, two of which have been frozen should the family decide to welcome further offspring.
As per a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, such a treatment is not available in the United States.