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Egg freezing treatment shows promise

16 September 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 276

Italian researchers say that they have achieved 13 births using eggs that had been frozen and thawed before being fertilised and implanted into a woman. According to the researchers, who publish their findings in the September edition of the journal Fertility and Sterility, the study indicates that the promise of using unfertilised frozen-thawed eggs is growing, and 'offers new hope' to women who wish to delay having children.

The researchers, from the University of Bologna in Italy, froze 737 eggs taken from 68 different women. Fifty-one of the women were undergoing IVF procedures, but wanted to preserve eggs that were not used in the immediate cycle for potential future procedures. Italian law prevents the freezing of embryos, but does allow gametes - eggs or sperm - to be frozen. The 17 other women wanted to preserve their eggs for future use but had no desired sperm donor at the time. The researchers say that their 'results show oocyte cryopreservation may represent an alternative to embryo storage in selected cases'.

The eggs were frozen for various amounts of time, but calculations showed that about 272 (37 per cent) of them survived the thawing process. Approximately 122 of these were successfully fertilised and 104 of the healthiest were transferred to the women's wombs. Some women did not become pregnant, and three who did become pregnant later miscarried. Thirteen live births were reported among the remaining women.

While sperm and embryos freeze and thaw well, there have been problems in the past with egg freezing, which is not as efficient. The large proportion of water within eggs causes ice crystals to form when they are frozen, causing them to expand and suffer damage. Dr Giovanni Coticchio, leader of the research team, said that a 37 per cent survival rate for the eggs was not good enough, but added that in future studies the team hopes to achieve a 75 to 85 per cent survival rate by altering the medium in which the eggs are stored. They intend to increase the sucrose levels to lower the water content and reduce the likelihood of ice crystals forming. However, this may, in turn, make the eggs susceptible to 'dehydration stress' during the thawing process.

Egg freezing is a technique used primarily by women undergoing cancer treatment, as their ovaries may be unable to produce eggs after treatment. The process of retrieving eggs involves drugs and is uncomfortable and invasive, so it would not ordinarily be contemplated by healthy, fertile women, especially given that the success rate has remained low. If it could be perfected it may allow young women to store their eggs, at the point they are the most fertile, until they are ready to have children. UK fertility expert Simon Fishel, director of the Centres for Assisted Reproduction, said egg freezing is technically problematic and was costly, inefficient and uncomfortable for the patients. 'Freezing is still at the experimental stage so women have tended to use it only if they are undergoing medical treatment', he said, adding 'but if the technique improves they may start to choose it for lifestyle reasons'.

Egg Freezing Shows Promise as Fertility Technique
Reuters |  13 September 2004
Italian births raise hopes for egg-freezing treatment
The Independent |  15 September 2004
New fertility treatment 'closer'
BBC News Online |  14 September 2004
Pregnancies and births after oocyte cryopreservation
Fertility and Sterility |  1 September 2004
9 January 2006 - by BioNews 
A UK fertility expert has said that within ten years, a significant proportion of young British women will be cryopreserving their eggs in order to stave off infertility while delaying motherhood. Dr Simon Fishel, director of the Centre for Assisted Reproduction (CARE) in Nottingham, said at a media briefing at...
13 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A British woman has given birth to the country's first 'frozen egg' twins, it has been revealed. Margaret McNamee gave birth to twin girls Anna and Isabelle Fahey last month, following fertility treatment at the Midland Fertility Services (MFS) clinic in Walsall. The couple originally had IVF treatment to conceive...
6 July 2005 - by BioNews 
A baby girl who spent 13 years as an embryo frozen at -235C has been born in California. The birth of Laina Beasley set a new medical record in fertility treatment, as the longest time an embryo has been frozen and born healthy. Laina's birth beat all the odds, overcoming...
31 May 2005 - by BioNews 
Scientists from the University of Michigan, US, have developed a new egg freezing technique that may improve the chances of women who want to have children following treatment for cancer. Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can render a woman infertile, so researchers have been looking at ways to preserve...
4 May 2005 - by BioNews 
A British woman is expecting the country's first 'frozen egg' twins, it was revealed last week. The 36-year-old woman is said to be five months pregnant, following the use of fertility treatments that included the freezing of one of her eggs. Doctors at the West Midlands-based Midland Fertility Services...
18 August 2003 - by BioNews 
ViaCell, a biotechnology company based in Boston, US, has announced that it is developing a procedure to enable women to freeze their eggs for later use. The procedure is ready to begin clinical trials and ViaCell says it would like to be able to offer the service within 18 months...
14 October 2002 - by BioNews 
The birth of the first baby conceived using a woman's own egg that had been frozen has been announced in the UK. Emily Perry, who is now three months old, was born from an egg that had been frozen and then thawed before fertilisation. This is the first time that...
14 October 2002 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week's BioNews reports on a three month-old baby whose birth will become part of the medical history. Emily Perry was born after her mother Helen put her eggs into frozen storage, then had them thawed out, fertilised and transferred to her womb. As medical science has developed and laws...
3 December 2001 - by BioNews 
Doctors at Midland Fertility Services in Birmingham, UK, have achieved a pregnancy using a human egg that had been frozen. This is the first time that such a technique has been successful in the UK, although it has worked in Singapore and Australia over a decade ago, but with very...
19 March 2001 - by BioNews 
The UK's first IVF baby conceived using a thawed, frozen egg was born recently, reported the Daily Mail last week. Dr Mohammed Taranissi, head of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London, said that the baby was healthy but the mother wished to remain anonymous at present. Only around...
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