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'Capsule' could cut costs and time of IVF

28 April 2008
Appeared in BioNews 455

A new study presented to the International Society for Mild Approaches in Assisted Reproduction (ISMAAR) at their Second World Congress held in London earlier this month raises the possibility of a new 'lunch hour' IVF treatment.

The Invocell capsule, manufactured by the Massachusetts-based company, BioXcell, is designed to remove the need for complex laboratory equipment, allowing women to undergo less expensive, rapid IVF treatment. During conventional IVF, eggs are harvested by surgery, then mixed with sperm and grown in the laboratory for three to five days after which one or two embryos are implanted. With the Invocell device, eggs are harvested and up to seven eggs along with sperm are placed immediately into the Invocell capsule which is then inserted into the vaginal cavity - all in a single 90 minute procedure. Fertilisation takes place inside the body within the capsule, and three days later the capsule is removed and the best-quality embryos are implanted into the womb in a 30 minute procedure.

BioXcell reported a 19.7 per cent rate of pregnancy in their trials - considerably less than around 27 per cent with conventional IVF - and an additional drawback is that the method would not be suitable for patients requiring ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), a technique used to treat male infertility that involves injecting a single sperm into an egg. But removing the need to store sperm and eggs and to grow fertilised embryos in the laboratory has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of treatment for some patients. The Invocell capsule is currently waiting for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and has already received a European Union CE mark. BioXcell hope to market it in Europe and Britain later this year.

The makers claim that since the Invocell capsule removes the need for an IVF centre and laboratory equipment, the procedure could potentially be carried out 'in an office'. However, this claim was challenged by UK fertility expert Simon Fishel: 'You would still need the accredited facilities for egg collection, and there's also the question of what you'd do with any spare embryos. If you wanted to freeze them, you'd still need an incubator and a freezer', he told the Times newspaper. There could also be regulatory issues - John Paul Maytum, of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: 'If a clinic wanted to use this device, we would have to look very carefully at whether it would fall within our remit'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
New IVF fertility treatment that you could fit in your lunch break
The Times |  21 April 2008
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