the fertility advocate

Talking, writing, educating, and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years

Understanding CGH Technology – And What it Means to The Future of Fertility Treatment

It’s an amazing fact of biology – when it comes to human reproduction and medical science – the physicians and scientists have been able to help couples conceive children through incredible break throughs in reproductive medicine – but the one thing that they havenot been able to crack is how to “fix” an egg that is not working properly. And up until now, it has often been an educated guessing game in trying to determine a healthy egg from one that is not viable. It is amazing to me, in all of these years of watching the science and the medicine of reproductiveve medicine change and grow over twenty years – that they have been able to take one single sperm and make a baby – but still – we cannot help a woman with eggs that are not healthy – become healthy enough to make a baby.

In fact, outside of checking ovarian reserve – and through various genetic tests – we have been very limited in our ability to even tell if an egg is normal or not. This lack of ability to truly look inside a seemingly normal egg and know if it is a viable egg has held back the science of egg freezing and up until now – has made egg freezing a hit and miss game for women. Because even though they were freezing eggs…how did they know that they were freezing normal eggs that would actually have the potential to make a baby? The truth is…they didn’t. And that is why many commercial egg freezing banks insisted that women freeze as many as twenty eggs – because they didn’t know what kind of eggs that they were freezing! The eggs could be normal – or not. They had no way of knowing.

Medical breakthroughs that can change the face of reproductive medicine do not come every day. Often there is talk of a promise of a new technology – or a new possibility. But it has been a while since we have really had a break through in reproductive medicine – until now.

I am talking about a brand new technology patent pending process called Egg Competency Testing (ECT), when coupled with ultra-rapid egg freezing technology known as vitrification (a protocol that minimizes egg damage,), actually delivers on reproductive medicine’s promise to liberate women from the tyranny of the biological clock.

The day of true reproductive freedom for women has arrived. A new scientific study confirms the efficacy of a revolutionary egg selection and freezing process that, at long last, offers women a viable and reliable fertility preservation option.

Developed and clinically tested by the scientists at ReproCure, a vanguard genetics products company, this process increases the live births derived from a cryopreserved egg almost seven-fold over the field’s current standard. In simple terms, it means that for the first time, women in their prime childbearing years can freeze and bank their own eggs for future use, relatively confident that they will have a 26%-to-27% chance of a having a baby from each cryopreserved genetically selected oocyte. Significantly, these odds are better than those with conventional IVF at its best.

The stunning results of a rigorous multi-year ReproCure-funded study are published in the current issue of the prestigious journal Reproductive Bio Medicine Online.

“Everything we’veheard before about egg freezing needs to be put away,” said Dr. Geoffrey Sher, Executive Medical Director of ReproCure and the Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine (SIRM) a world-renowned trailblazer in the field of reproductive medicine for more than three decades.

“I would heartily agree with medical governing agencies that in the past have strongly advised against the use of egg freezing and banking. Up until now, existing technology only offered a 1%-to-4% baby rate per frozen egg….a false promise of success,” noted Dr. Sher. “But ECT and vitrification, dual processes that allow us to select only chromosomally normal eggs for safe cryobankingare paradigm shifters. They givewomen a realistic fertility preservation alternative they can count on.”

Normal Egg, Healthy Baby

In essence, Egg Competency Testing (ECT), focuses on a relatively new DNA test called Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH)to determine which eggs are chromosomally normal (euploid). It’s well established that, barring other compromising medical factors or male infertility, it is euploid eggs that are most likely to yield chromosomally sound embryos and they are the ones most likely to develop into healthy babies.

Indeed, ReproCure/SIRM investigators were able to illustrate that in the vast majority of cases, the transfer of up to two chromosomallynormal (competent) embryos to a receptive uterine environment produced a baby almost 70% of the time.

The ECT process involves handpicking chromosomally normal eggs for preservation. One of the most amazing parts of the research for me, and the most surprising is that researchers now know that most eggs, even in young healthy women, are chromosomally abnormal (aneuploid)!!  Making things even more complicated is that the incidence of aneupolidy is random.One month a woman opting for egg freezing may be stimulated to produce 12 eggs and none will be normal. The next month the same woman might produce six that are normal. The key is to a successful outcome is freezing only the euploid eggs. Without the scattershot approach of freezing every egg harvested – a minimum of 20 at most centers, ReproCure’s technique requires that only 4 or 5 normal eggs be frozen and banked.

The CGH Factor

CGH is a delicate and complex test that screens the full complement of chromosomes in each egg. ReproCure/SIRM’s dedicated team has an expertise and experience in egg/embryo CGH that is unmatched by any other center in the world, giving it an unbeatable track record in identifying chromosomally normal eggs. Only these are selected for vitrification (ultra-rapid freezing) and banking.

Once frozen, these eggs are stored until the time the woman chooses to create her family.

Until now, family building has been severely constrained by simple biology. If a woman wanted her own biogenetic children, she was under the gun to procreate before her eggs were too old and chromosomally abnormal to generate offspring. That ratchets up the pressure on everything from education to economics and romance. Women who haven’t found the right mate by 35 or who can’t afford to leave the workplace find themselves penalized by nature. For most, a genetically related child is not possible. If they want to experience pregnancy, the only option is egg donation.

ECT and vitrification does an end-run around the biological clock. It affords a woman the luxury of time precisely because she’s stored her own eggs while in her reproductive prime. Those oocytes, when properly warmed, fertilized and transferred are as likely to able to yield offspring in five, 10 or even 20 years as they are today. ECT liberates a woman to achieve emotional, psychological and financial maturity secure in the knowledge that she can have children of her own.

I think that the day is finally coming that instead of young women on college campus’s being bombarded with solicitations to donate their eggs to women who have missed their biological opportunity to use their own eggs – that young women will instead be banking their own future. Freezing their own eggs, with a new level of confidence in what medical science can offer them – so when they are ready in all of the ways that they want to be ready to have children – there own eggs will be waiting. Now that is breaking through the biological glass ceiling. And that day – it seems has come.

About Pam Madsen
Talking, writing, educating and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years
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