Six babies have been born to participants in a clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of egg freezing in patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) at the UConn Health Center’s Center for Advanced Reproductive Services.
Egg freezing is a new technology that will allow patients the option of storing frozen eggs instead of embryos, eliminating some of the ethical and religious concerns that accompany embryo freezing, storage, and disposal.
The research, which involved evaluating a method of rapid freezing of eggs called vitrification, was conducted by Dr. Claudio Benadiva, director of the IVF Laboratory at the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, and Linda Siano, chief embryologist.
“This new technology has the potential to revolutionize the field of reproductive medicine,” says Benadiva, “offering a clinically viable alternative to women seeking to preserve fertility for medical reasons, or who are of reproductive age but simply not ready to start a family.”
Patients who volunteered to participate in the study had a portion of their eggs frozen during a process in which eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries, frozen in a cryoprotective solution, and then thawed. The thawed eggs were then warmed and fertilized with the male partner’s sperm through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and used to obtain a pregnancy.
Preliminary data demonstrate a clinical pregnancy rate of 53.8 percent and a live birth/ongoing pregnancy rate of 46.1 percent. So far, six babies (including one set of twins) have been born from frozen eggs to patients who participated in the study.
Joni Stehlik, operational laboratory director at the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, says, “The results from this study show promise and are very encouraging. We will continue to analyze the data and refine our technique to provide patients with the absolute best chance for success.”
In a previous position, Stehlik was responsible for the first birth in the U.S. from a frozen egg utilizing the vitrification technique in 2002.
Egg freezing is currently considered experimental by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. This is in part due to the fact that many centers around the country currently offering egg freezing have had a very low success rate regarding pregnancy.
Benadiva says the Health Center plans to begin offering egg freezing as a clinical option to patients sometime in the first half of 2011. “We will be one of a select few centers doing so,” he says, “after having demonstrated measurable success under the auspices of an IRB approved clinical trial.”
Candidates for this new technology will include patients desiring fertility preservation prior to undergoing cancer treatment or for other medical reasons, IVF patients who decline embryo freezing, and women seeking elective fertility preservation for other non-medical reasons.
According to the most recent data, it is estimated that close to 900 births have occurred worldwide from egg freezing, with about 600 during the past three years.
The UConn Health Center was one of the first academic medical centers to establish an IVF program in the early 1980’s. It has grown to be the largest fertility center in the state, with nearly 1,000 cycles completed in the last year.
For more information about the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, or for more details on this study’s results, call 860-679-4580 or go to the Center’s website.