This Infertility Treatment Sounds Like the Future. Or a Horror Movie


What if you were a woman who was having trouble getting pregnant and your doctor told you there was a way he could “freshen up” your eggs using mitochondria from some of your other eggs to “replace that lost energy”? Yes, this reality exists—in Canada.

A story by way of NPR and not Lois Lowry explains. The Augment Treatment from OvaScience (“Through extraordinary innovation, OvaScience seeks to transform the world’s understanding of a woman’s biology and empower women worldwide”) claims “to improve a patient’s egg health” by taking eggs that might need a little boost because they’re too old, and using mitochondria from a woman’s immature egg cells to “supplement the existing mitochondria” in their fully-developed eggs.

What? NPR explains it again:

A woman trying to get pregnant goes through a surgical procedure to remove a small piece of her ovary, so that doctors can extract mitochondria from the immature egg cells. In a separate procedure, doctors remove some of the woman’s mature eggs from her ovaries. They then inject the young mitochondria into the eggs in the lab, along with sperm from the woman’s partner; except for adding mitochondria to the mix, the process is the same one that’s followed with standard in vitro fertilization. The resulting embryo can then be transferred into her womb.

Dr. Robert Casper, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Toronto Center for Advanced Reproductive Technology, told NPR that the new mitochondria “haven’t been subjected to mutations and other problems,” which helps with conception.

Though Ovascience, Inc. is located in Massachusetts, this procedure is not FDA approved, which means it’s not available to U.S. residents. It also costs an extra $25,000 on top of the regular price of IVF treatment, so it’s unlikely to become widespread any time soon. On top of that, the usual back-and-forth is occurring between doctors over whether the technique will cause long-term health issues for any babies born from those eggs. But boy, doesn’t it sound cool?

Image via Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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