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18 January 2011
IVF miscarriage breakthrough

Australian researchers have developed a product which improves IVF embryo implantation rates for women who have suffered previous miscarriages after IVF treatment. University of Adelaide reproductive biologist Sarah Robertson said the growth factor treatment improves IVF embryo implantation rates for some women by up to 40 percent.

The product, EmbryoGen, to be released in 2011, contains a signaling molecule called GM-CSF found naturally in the mother's tissues which protects the embryo from stress, making it stronger and more robust in the early implantation period.

The clinical trial of EmbryoGen resulted in an average 20 percent improvement in embryo implantation rates at 12 weeks for all IVF women. Women who had previously miscarried showed an impressive 40 percent increase in implantation success. "This is a wonderful advance for couples undertaking IVF, particularly those who have previously lost babies in the first trimester," Robertson said.

"This breakthrough has been 20 years in the making," she added. "It's enormously rewarding to see one's basic research translate into practical outcomes that will benefit so many families. From day one we went right back to the fundamental biology to see what makes an embryo healthy in its normal environment in the reproductive tract. We discovered that embryo is exposed to growth factor signals from the mother's tissues, which is critical to its optimal development."

The trial represents a major paradigm shift for reproductive medicine as it was previously believed that embryos don't need growth factors. "We have demonstrated through extensive animal and human clinical trials that the reality is just the opposite," said Robertson. "EmbryoGen is not only completely safe and natural - it contains signaling molecules that the embryo expects to find in the mother's body - but our data from animal studies shows that it may also result in IVF babies that are larger and healthier at birth."

Robertson says IVF children are often smaller at birth, sometimes leading to long term effects in later life. "By adding back this growth factor and protecting the embryo from stress, the result should be babies that are of a similar size to those naturally conceived."

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Source: The University of Adelaide

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