Fertility clinic first in Canada to allow women to “incubate” embryos inside their bodies

A fertility clinic in Canada is offering a revolutionary new option to women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments: the opportunity to “incubate” embryos inside their bodies, rather than in a petri dish in a laboratory.

During traditional IVF, unfertilized sperm and eggs are combined in a petri dish and placed within a mechanical ventilator for up to 5 days in order to promote fertilization and embryo development. However, with this new technology, eggs and sperm are placed in a plastic egg-shaped capsule that is then inserted into a woman’s womb where the embryos incubate “naturally”. After 3 to 5 days, the capsule is removed, and the healthiest embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus, with any remaining healthy embryos being cryopreserved for future use.

The Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technologies (TCART) offered this technology, called INVOcell, to 10 young, healthy women receiving IVF. Half of the women’s eggs were placed in the traditional incubator in the lab and half were placed in the INVOcell. While the rate of fertilization was less in the INVOcell, there were cases of failed fertilization in the incubator as well. Embryos from the INVOcell were transferred to the women’s uteruses. Four of the 10 women became pregnant after using the INVOcell device. The research team is continuing to test the effectiveness of the device.

According to Dr. Robert Casper, TCART’s medical director, the INVOcell treatment may appeal to a women “who desire close connection to her own embryos” for personal or religious reasons, and can help reduce “separation anxiety” by carrying the embryos in their bodies during the early stages of fertilization.

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