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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Egg breakthrough hailed by scientists

The fertility treatment could help thousands of women
Thousands of infertile women who need donated eggs from another women may still be able to have a child who is genetically theirs.

The new "egg-glueing" technique transplants most of the genes from the would-be mother into the donor's egg.

We were surprised and encouraged by how successful it was

Dr Jan Tessarik
It means that couples using the man's sperm but another woman's eggs for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) would be able to have children with nearly the same genes as their parents.

The women who in theory could be helped by the procedure are those who need donated eggs because of defects in the cytoplasm.

This is the part of the egg outside the nucleus, which holds most of the genes. Only 37 genes are found outside the nucleus of the egg.

The defect means that, without help, their eggs have far less chance of developing into viable embryos.

Approximately 10% of women attending IVF clinics have this problem.

The technique, used by scientists in France, Italy and Spain, removes the nucleus of the cell using an organic chemical.

Nucleus fused

This nucleus is then fused with cytoplasm from a donated egg - a very delicate procedure.

In theory, this could be done at the same time as the egg is fertilised during normal IVF.

So far, although the modified eggs have been successfully created in a laboratory, there has been no attempt to create an embryo for implantation using the technique.

This means there are still doubts about whether it could lead to either a pregnancy, or a normal child.

Dr Jan Tessarik, who headed the research team, said: "We believe that this is the first time the mechanical technique has ever been used and we were surprised and encouraged by how successful it was.

It could be some time before the treatment is available
"We are currently testing the efficiency of this technique in the laboratory but it could be some considerable time before we are ready to offer the service to couples."

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said that any UK clinic wishing to offer the technique could apply for a licence to create embryos using the method.

He added that the doctors would have to satisfy the authority that the technique was safe before a licence could be granted.

He added: "I don't think there is anything stopping them doing the same research, as long as they are not creating an embryo."

Infertility groups have welcomed news of the breakthrough.

A spokesman for Issue said: "We feel that this is a very interesting move forward in reproductive technology and may assist many thousands of couples to have what they desperately want - which is their own baby."

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See also:

18 Jan 99 | Health
Sperm treatment trial urged
18 Feb 99 | Health
IVF advances on the way
24 Feb 99 | Health
The future of frozen fertility
31 Mar 99 | Health
IVF: the drawbacks
25 Jan 00 | Health
Frozen egg ban lifted
26 Jul 99 | Medical notes
Donating eggs and sperm
31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
23 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Ovary grafting
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