September 25, 2012
Chemical Discovered To Aid IVF Treatments
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
“I'm thirty-seven and I want a baby.” Kate Holbrook, played by comedian Tina Fey, is a modern woman who wants it all — career, family, happiness. In order to achieve all this and more, she seeks a surrogate who could help her give birth. Movies like “Baby Mama” are just a few of the films that examine in vitro fertilization (IVF) and, on the science side, many research studies have examined the process of maturing eggs. In particular, one study by scientists at the University of Gothenburg has found that a chemical can help start the change of eggs from small to mature, which could provide increased opportunities for women to undergo IVF treatment in the future.
The group of investigators discovered a chemical that inhibits the PTEN molecule but also initiates the transition of small eggs into healthy, mature eggs. The researchers completed the study with mice, with the successful birth of five young mice from matured eggs with the PTEN inhibitor.
"This discovery demonstrates that there is a realistic chance of being able to use PTEN inhibitors to activate small eggs in a test tube," remarked Kui Liu, a professor at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, in a prepared statement.
The study was based on previous findings included in the publication Science. Previous studies showed that PTEN is a molecule that could limit the development of an egg. The findings of the current study will be especially helpful for women who have had difficulty conceiving in the past due to illness, such as issues stemming from cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The new findings may also be helpful for girls who have yet to hit puberty, but who have already preserved their fertility by freezing slices of ovarian tissue of immature eggs.
The findings of the research also highlight how treatment with the PTEN inhibitor could be done quickly and result in growth of small eggs to a large amount of mature eggs. The eggs could then be used in IVF treatment to produce healthy young. For example, in the study, the young mice were fertile and did not display any symptoms of chronic diseases by the time they reached the age of 15 months.
Furthermore, the scientists believe that the new method could be incredibly beneficial.
"This technique is extremely valuable for those women who have only small eggs in their ovaries and cannot be helped by IVF as things stand," commented Liu in the statement.
The researchers are positive that the new method could be used in developing female reproductive cells to aid women who have had reproductive issues in the past.
"We hope to see this method being used clinically within five to ten years," concluded Liu in the statement.
In the past, the University of Gothenburg has delved into other issues related to female reproduction. Most recently, Swedish doctors from the college were able to perform a mother-daughter uterus transplant. It is considered the first surgery of its kind in the world. Both women were around the age of 30 and had difficulty with IVF treatments in the past.
The findings from the study were recently featured in the journal PLoS ONE.