New IVF test offers hope for greater pregnancy success rate

British scientists says chance of success could rise from 35 per cent to 80 per cent thanks to new test

(Image credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

British scientists say the success rate of IVF treatment could reach 80 per cent next year thanks to a new test that can pinpoint the most viable embryos.

Using current techniques, only about 35 per cent of IVF cycles result in a pregnancy.

The scientists, who were working at Oxford University, examined the behaviour of an embryo's mitochondria – the microscopic "power packs" inside cells. They found that some embryos have too much mitochondrial DNA, and that these will never develop into a baby, reports The Independent.

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New work has been commissioned to investigate what causes the excess, which is not yet understood.

Genetics professor Dagan Wells, who was involved in the research, told PA that by next year doctors could be using a test based on his team's discovery. If they can identify embryos with too much mitochondrial DNA, they will be able to avoid them and select embryos with a better chance of survival.

Wells said it can be a "brutal" experience for patients repeatedly having negative pregnancy tests. "Any test of the embryo that will result in a baby is therefore highly desirable," he said.

It comes as the biggest ever study of fertility treatment in the world found that women who undergo IVF are a third more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

University College London scientists said that the increased risk might be a result of underlying health problems in infertile women, but that the research also "leaves open the possibility" that the procedure itself might be to blame.

The Daily Telegraph points out that the risk is still small, however. "Just 15 in every 10,000 women developed ovarian cancer over the study period, compared with around 11 in 10,000 of the general population," it says. Last year nearly 50,000 women in the UK underwent IVF.

Both studies are being presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference held in Baltimore this week.

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