By Ellen Arkfeld
In a conventional In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment, zygotes develop in an incubator before they are implanted into a woman’s uterus. This incubator is designed to mimic the human body. Recently, however, physicians developed an alternative method of incubation: instead of using an incubator, the zygotes grow in an INVOcell, a device that is actually inside the body. INVOcell was first used in Canada in February 2015, and was approved by the FDA in November.
The device is almost as effective as traditional incubation outside the body: a clinical trial found that 55% of women using the method went on to deliver a baby, compared to 60% who used the conventional method.
This method could allow people who can’t afford IVF (which typically costs between $16,000 and $20,000) a chance to conceive. According to the World Health Organization, less than 10% of couples who need contraceptive assistant receive it. INVOcell could enable many more individuals to conceive using IVF because it is half as expensive as traditional IVF treatments. Further, INVOcell labs will be much simpler and less expensive than standard IVF labs, so IVF treatment could be brought to lower-income areas.
The treatment comes with its own drawbacks and risks. INVOcell cannot be used in complicated cases, such as when sperm needs to be injected into an egg. Additionally, physicians would not be able to detect problems arising from abnormal fertilization because the embryo can’t be checked during incubation. However, physicians are optimistic that the treatment will bring IVF treatment to many more people who need it.
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