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ESHRE 2016: Research highlights

11 July 2016
Appeared in BioNews 859

Three out of every four women starting fertility treatment will have a baby within five years, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Helsinki, Finland.

The results come from a study of almost 20,000 women having fertility treatment in Denmark between 2007 and 2010.

The majority of these women – 57 percent – conceived as a result of their treatment, but 14 percent conceived spontaneously. More than half gave birth within two years.

Further analysis showed that age was the most important factor for a successful treatment. After five years, 80 percent of women under 35, 61 percent of those aged 35–40, and 26 percent of those aged 40 and over had given birth.

'Infertility patients have two key questions: what are our chances of having a baby, and when will it happen?' said Dr Sara Malchau of Copenhagen University Hospital in Hvidovre, Denmark, who conducted the study. 'We are now able to provide couples with a reliable, comprehensible, age-stratified, long-term prognosis at the start of treatment.'

Also announced at the meeting was a new approach for assessing the viability of embryos for IVF, based on their levels of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

Embryos can be screened for aneuploidy – having an abnormal number of chromosomes – prior to IVF, but one-third of chromosomally normal embryos still fail to produce a pregnancy.

Dr Elpida Fragouli of Reprogenetics UK and the University of Oxford reported a study in which 111 chromosomally normal embryos were transferred into patients. Of these, 78 led to ongoing pregnancies – all of which had normal levels of mtDNA. The remaining 33 embryos failed to implant and eight of these had unusually high levels of mtDNA.

'The results confirm that embryos with elevated levels of mitochondrial DNA rarely implant, and support the use of mitochondrial quantification as a marker of embryo viability,' said Dr Fragouli.

'Aneuploidy is still the biggest cause of embryo implantation failure, so mitochondrial analysis does not replace that. It is the combination of the two methods – mitochondrial DNA testing and chromosome analysis – that is so powerful,' she concluded.

The effectiveness of a technique called 'endometrial scratch' – in which the lining of the womb is deliberately injured to improve the chances of an embryo implanting – was reported at the meeting.

Sarah Lensen of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, presented the results of a recent Cochrane review. It identified eight trials of the technique, involving a total of 1180 women. They report that women undergoing the technique were twice as likely to give birth than women receiving either no intervention or a mock intervention.

However, Lensen pointed out that the original studies were of 'very low quality' and had a serious risk of bias. 'The results must be treated with caution,' she concluded.

Also reported at ESHRE 2016:

1 August 2016 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Around one in three women conceive naturally in the six years after discontinuing fertility treatment, an internet survey of over 400 women has found...
9 May 2016 - by James Brooks 
The UK's first baby resulting from an embryo that was screened using next-generation DNA sequencing has been born in Oxford...
18 April 2016 - by Professor Caroline Ogilvie 
Press coverage of a recent study on mouse embryos speculates that termination of human pregnancies diagnosed with aneuploidy (a family of conditions including Down's syndrome) at prenatal diagnosis could be unnecessary, due to the ability of the fetus to 'heal itself'. In fact, the paper's findings are not relevant to aneuploidy detected at prenatal diagnosis...
22 June 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
The rate of ectopic pregnancies in the UK following assisted reproduction has almost halved in the past 12 years, according to a new analysis...
22 June 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
A roundup of research stories from ESHRE 2015 that hit the headlines this week...
8 July 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
A 'powerful' form of genome analysis could improve embryo selection for IVF, according to scientists who report that the first baby has been born from this method...
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