Microchip Device Seeks To 'Mimic' Womb To Improve IVF Outcomes

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In Vitro Fertilization Outcomes

The Boston Globe on Monday profiled Teruo Fujii of the University of Tokyo,who with his research team is developing technology that seeks to"mimic the womb" in an effort to improve in vitro fertilizationoutcomes. The technology, which has been tested using mouse eggs,involves positioning eggs on a microchip lined with cultured uterinetissues. Sperm cells are then added to fertilize the eggs, and theembryos over the next 48 to 72 hours are washed with "rhythmic waves ofa culture fluid that helps them grow, in an attempt to stimulate whathappens in the womb," according to the Globe. The embryosthen are removed, and the healthy ones are implanted into the wombs ofmice. Most IVF clinics prepare embryos in a Petri dish prior toimplantation in the womb, the Globe reports.

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Fujii earlier this year at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryologyin Lyon, France, reported that 60% of his experiments testing thetechnology among mice produced healthy embryos, compared with 52% ofexperiments using the standard IVF method. Forty-four percent of themicrochip-grown embryos developed into healthy fetuses afterimplantation, compared with 40% of Petri dish-produced embryos, Fujiireported.

According to the Globe, Fujii and hiscolleagues are attempting to create human embryos with the technologyafter receiving university and government approvals in March. Thetechnology might be available to couples attempting the procedure infive years, but it could take longer to perfect and pass safetystandards, the Globe reports. "This is a new way to culture embryos in an environment that is closer to what happens inside the body," Fujii said.

According to CDC,29% of couples who attempted IVF in 2005 gave birth, compared with24.7% who attempted the procedure in 1998. A CDC report released in2002 found that 10% of U.S. women of childbearing age had consulted adoctor for infertility (Guynup, Boston Globe, 10/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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