About 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age in the U.S. suffer from fertility problems. Researchers are trying to improve the success rate of fertility treatments and cut their cost to make life better for those who can’t have children. The next generation of fertility treatments will hopefully have the power to change the game for couples struggling with infertility.
Traditionally, the IVF approach was essentially a beauty contest. Doctors selected embryos for implantation based off of their morphology.
Today, embryos are genetically screened by clinicians to check whether chromosomes are normal.
Barry Behr, director of the IVF Laboratory at Stanford University, says there are some downsides to this strategy. Behr believes pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) is overused, especially among young people. This is due to a desperate quest for information.
Another issue is that there is only a 50/50 chance an embryo will attach to the lining of the uterus. Behr says, “The field has realized all the attention is on how many eggs there are without recognizing fully the role of the endometrium lining the uterus. But if you try to plant an apple seed in the sand, it’s not going to grow.”
With this knowledge, clinicians are looking to switch up their process for selecting embryos. Now, they can use an endometrium receptivity assay (ERA) to look for molecular signatures that indicate when the timing is right for implantation in the uterus. This method currently requires a biopsy, but researchers are working on less- or non-invasive methods.
Researchers have been working on different IVF methods in hopes of making the treatment less expensive. One of those treatments is the vaginal incubation of embryos, which is about half as expensive as regular IVF.
Clinicians are also researching how genetics plays a part in the success of fertility treatments.
IVG is a process in which scientists are attempting to take adult human cells and turn them into artificial eggs or sperm. You can read more deeply about it in this article.
IVG is a potentially huge step in changing how infertility is approached. If it were to become possible in humans in the future, it would mean LGBTQ families and infertile men and women would be able to have their own genetic offspring.