Donor Cytoplasm For IVF
Cytoplasmic Transfer

ART treatments


Bioengineered Babies


What Is Donor Cytoplasm?
Bioengineered Babies Anyone?
Why Has It Been Banned?
Does Anyone Offer The Treatment?

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Assisted Reproductive Technology
Donor cytoplasm is also called cytoplasmic transfer and oocyte cytoplasm. It was first used in 1997 by embryologist Jacques Cohen.
Donor cytoplasm is a type of IVF protocol. 'Protocol' is just a fancy term for treatment plan. It means donor cytoplasmic transfer is an optional extra you can choose to add to your treatment plan to increase your chance of a successful pregnancy.

What Is Donor Cytoplasm?

Sounds like a NASA space program doesn't it? Donor cytoplasm is a new infertility treatment that can be used in conjunction with IVF. Put simply, it is where a doctor takes the yoke (center part called cytoplasm) of one healthy woman's egg and injects it into another woman's damaged egg. The resulting egg is then fertilized with sperm and implanted in the woman seeking treatment. Donor cytoplasm is an alternative to egg donation where a complete egg is donated. The main advantage of donor cytoplasm over egg donation is that the resulting baby will still carry genetic DNA from the mother. The technique was designed for women experiencing infertility due to damage of their egg's cytoplasm (specifically the mitochondria). Damage to the mitochondria can lead to persistent miscarriages and poor levels of embryo development. Mitochondria damage increases with age, particularly after the age of 35.

Bottom line: Taking the yoke from a younger woman's egg and injecting it into an older woman's egg rejuvenates the egg.

Bioengineered Babies Anyone?

In effect, babies born as a result of donor cytoplasm are genetic hybrids. Even though the process does not involve transferring nuclear DNA from the donor, there may still be small amounts of mitochondrial DNA from the donor. That means the child will have DNA genetic material from 3 parents - the donor, the mother and the father (whoever donated the sperm).

Why Has It Been Banned?

About 40 children to date have been born from cytoplasmic transfer. Within a few years of the first successful procedure (1997), the U.S., Australia and Britain introduced legislation to ban it. Specifically they banned any procedure that involves adding a third person's genetic genome to a human germline. Why? While the treatment has been hailed as a miracle by women who managed to have a child as a result of it (usually after they suffered years of miscarriages and failed IVF cycles), enough issues were raised for the FDA to ban it in 2002 until further studies could be undertaken. Basically nobody yet knows how 'normal' these children will turn out to be, considering they have genetic material from 3 parents. It may also be that the donor's DNA and mothers DNA could clash or the double source of mitochondrial DNA could lead to fatal mitochondrial diseases such motor neuron disease. These diseases only tend to show up in puberty. One molecular biologist, says it is not clear why cytoplasmic transfer works. He said it is like 'trying to cure a bottle of soured milk by adding a dollop of fresh'.

Does Anyone Offer The Treatment?

Yes, Dr. Michael Fakih runs fertility clinics in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and offers cytoplasmic transfer. Dr Fakih is responsible for the birth of thousands of regular IVF babies and he has a team of embryologists working to push the boundaries of IVF techniques. The science is racing ahead. Fakih claims he has now pioneered a form of self-cytoplasmic transfer. This is where the mitochondria from one of the woman's own eggs is used to power another. He says he has several patients who were happy with the results. The cost of treatment is about $10,000.

  Related Articles on ART Procedures

For more techie fertility treatments, see the following:

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis: Testing for birth defects.
Egg freezing: When the biological clock is ticking.
Embryo donation: Receiving help from another couple.
ICSI procedure: Technique for injecting the sperm into the egg.
Extracting sperm for IVF: When the man's fertility is the problem.

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