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Frozen eggs yield promising results

September 20, 2004|Linda Marsa | Special to The Times

The ability to successfully freeze, then thaw, a woman's eggs could preserve fertility for women facing cancer treatment. It could prolong the child-bearing window for women not ready to be mothers. So far, however, the technique has been successful only on an isolated basis.

Now, in the first study involving significant numbers of couples being treated for infertility, Italian scientists have achieved 13 live births using frozen eggs.

"At this stage, we feel this technique has promise," says Dr. Mark A. Damario, medical director of the Reproductive Medicine Center at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Minneapolis.

In the study, 68 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization at an Italian fertility clinic had eggs frozen. A total of 86 thawing cycles were performed using 737 stored eggs. Only 37% (273) of the eggs survived. Of those, 45% (123) were fertilized, and 104 embryos were transferred into wombs. After implantation, 15 women became pregnant, resulting in 13 births.

That translates to a delivery rate of 15% per cycle, compared with 40% to 50% for IVF, says Dr. Owen K. Davis, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and associate director of the IVF clinic at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. "But if you go back 15 to 20 years, that's about what we had with IVF," he says. "In the future, this may be a feasible alternative."

Still, experts caution that the approach is experimental and inefficient when compared with conventional IVF, in which fresh eggs are used, because the majority of eggs don't survive the freezing process.

The study was published in the September issue of Fertility and Sterility.

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