Ten successful pregnancies from a new in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technology in Nigeria, called Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis have been announced by the Medical Art Centre, in Ikeja, Lagos.
The technique was first announced at a clinical meeting of the Society for Endocrinology and Reproduction, in April 2009 and it is said to be able to predict embryonic future thus selecting healthier embryos (product of fertilisation).
“The process will in turn reduce the chances of a repeatedly failed pregnancy through IVF and secondly, prevent children born with abnormalities such as sickle cell anaemia, Down Syndrome, Leukamia, et cetera,” said Professor Ashiru, Director of the Centre. “We diagnosed 20 women using this new technique in April 25th-28th; today, 10 of them are pregnant and five of these are carrying twin pregnancies.”
The method, though not new, is yet to be administered by the 16 IVF centres in Nigeria, Prof. Ashiru explained. The current pregnancy rate achieved by IVF is 30 per cent or lower, this according to IVF experts is due to abnormal chromosomes in embryos. But this new technique, he said, promises to select the healthiest embryos, at the laboratory level before implanting into the mother’s womb.
“This is another level in IVF and it helps us detect abnormal chromosomes in embryos and discard them,” Ashiru said.
“For instance when we can take a woman through IVF, we can get 10 embryos from her. Out of these 10, we will get a biopsy to get the genetic composition of these embryos. We can decide whether these embryos are male or female embryos, we can decide whether they have sickle cell, or whether these embryos will have leukemia in (the) future or whether it will be diabetic, we can know some of the abnormalities that may occur in a person a late age, by looking at those embryos.”
Explaining further he said, “For example in a couple who are AS, we can now select the AA embryos alone and transfer them to the mother.
“We don’t have to wait until the baby is born or the pregnancy is formed to abort the pregnancy which is what they do now. We can do it at the embryo level. We can do it at the embryo level and it will take three to four days in the laboratory.”
In vitro fertilisation
IVF is a process where infertile couples can get children through artificial insemination. The woman’s egg is fertilised by her husband’s sperm outside the body (in a test tube in the laboratory), the product, called an embryo is then implanted into the woman’s womb, where it grows into a normal pregnancy.
Nigeria has one of the highest infertility rates in the world with one to four individuals experiencing difficulty getting pregnant. However, fertility experts say causes are due to sexually transmitted diseases, hormonal and lifestyle factors.
An adjunct professor at the University of Illinous, Chicago, Prof. Ashiru said he was determined to create such a centre in Nigeria, following four in United States and two in India, using expertise from both countries.
“Pre-implantation diagnosis will save the cost of Nigerians travelling out of the country to seek help,” he said.
He added that though it costs an additional 3,000 US dollars over the normal cost of IVF which is from N500,000 - N700,000, the cost is justified, when compared to that of IVF and the aforementioned risks.
Women who have reached an advanced maternal age and those with repeated IVF failures or miscarriages, form the clientele.
“The pregnant women are in their 14th week now and they attend the antenatal clinic at our centre twice every month,” he revealed. “The next batch will be in August.”