Research from the Robinson Institute has achieved a major breakthrough in IVF technology that is expected to help millions of women around the world who have suffered previous miscarriages after IVF treatment.
Professor Sarah Robertson, Co-Director of the Robinson Institute’s Research Centre for Reproductive Health, has partnered with a Danish company to develop a product which improves IVF embryo implantation rates for some women by up to 40%.
In the world’s largest clinical trial on IVF media, Professor Robertson and ORIGIO a/s – a European company specialising in assisted reproductive technologies – have shown for the first time that growth factor molecules are critical to ensuring optimal embryo development.
The resulting product, EmbryoGen, to be released in 2011, contains a signalling 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, involving 1319 IVF patients exposed to either EmbryoGen or standard IVF embryo media, resulted in an average 20% improvement in embryo implantation rates at 12 weeks for all IVF women whose embryos developed in EmbryoGen. The effect is primarily due to benefits for women who had previously miscarried, who showed an impressive 40% increase in implantation success.
“This is a wonderful advance for couples undertaking IVF, particularly those who have previously lost babies in the first trimester,” Professor Robertson says.
It is also the culmination of more than two decades’ work for Professor Robertson, who based her PhD on the role of growth factors in healthy pregnancies and then worked with Swedish colleagues to explore applications in IVF embryos.
“This breakthrough has been 20 years in the making,” Professor Robertson says. “It’s enormously rewarding to see one’s basic research translate into practical outcomes that will benefit so many families”.