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Advances in Infertility Choices: A Genetic Test to Predict IVF Success

Posted Jan 03 2011 12:00am
In vitro fertilization ( IVF ) treatment is one of the most expensive investments that couples desiring children are making today. The average  IVF cost is nearly $24,000 and yet there is less than a 50% chance of the treatment resulting in the birth of a baby. Many couples may ask themselves, “is it worth the risk?” According to research released by the Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), weighing this risk may soon become easier. Researchers at CHR have discovered a simple genetic test which could actually predict the success at an IVF treatment.

IVF is a process by which a woman becomes pregnant by having fertilized eggs implanted into her uterus. This process is usually a last resort after other infertility treatments have been unsuccessful. The success rate of IVF treatments can vary dramatically depending on the treatment facility and individual patient demographics. Doctors and researchers have been trying to figure out how to determine which patients are the best candidates to recommend for this type of treatment in order to ensure that the couple’s investment in the treatment is worthwhile.

The genetic test discovered by CHR screens for the FMR1 gene in women. The FMR1 gene is a normal part of the human genetic makeup. However, research has shown that abnormalities of this gene can cause a variety of health problems. Most recently in the area of infertility, there has been a substantial amount of evidence showing the impact of FMR1 abnormalities on ovarian function.

In their study, CHR found that women with abnormal FMR1 had a 50% lower chance of a successful IVF pregnancy than women with a normal FMR1 genotype. In looking more closely at why this occurs the researchers theorized that an abnormal expression of the FMR1 gene may cause an autoimmune response which impairs ovarian function. This impaired ovarian function results in a much lower chance for a successful IVF treatment

This finding holds a promising outlook for future couples considering IVF. It is the first time that researchers have ever been able to pinpoint a specific gene linked to IVF outcomes. A simple and cost effective genetic test could help couples make more informed decisions before investing in IVF treatment. Likewise, physicians would be able to more confidently recommend IVF treatments for their patients based upon the statistical likelihood of successful pregnancy outcomes.
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