“End of Test Tube Baby,” runs the title of an article in UK’s Daily Telegraph about a tiny device for IVF that lets fertilization happen in the mother’s uterus, rather than in the laboratory. The porous device, the size of a grain of rice, contains the eggs retrieved from the ovaries after ovarian stimulation and sperm. Instead of mixing them together in a glass dish in the laboratory, eggs and sperm are placed in the device, called AneVivo. The device is then placed in the uterus, where the researchers think the environment is more natural to the eggs and sperm.
After 24 hours, the device is removed from the uterus. Embryologists select the best-looking embryos to be transferred back to the uterus for implantation. While technically the device does “end” IVF (in vitro fertilization), as the fertilization process occurs in the uterus, not “in vitro,” it doesn’t alleviate what’s typically the most stressful part of IVF for female patients: the week-long (ore more) ovarian stimulation involving hormonal injections and frequent visits to the office for monitoring. We asked Dr. Gleicher, our medical director, for his take on AneVivo and its clinical usefulness:
When it comes to IVF, the primary question that interests most infertile patients in need of the procedure is not “where does my egg get fertilized?” but “how do I get pregnant in the quickest, safest and least expensive way?” To believe that patients will choose this procedure, just because egg and sperm are “housed” in the uterus for fertilization to occur, appears rather naïve, especially since the embryos created this way then have to be removed from the uterus, separated in the lab and then reinserted again into the uterus.
All of this sounds very complicated; more so than current routine IVF. This, in turn, means it will likely be less efficient (i.e., result in poorer success rates). Lower success rates translate into higher costs, because the patient would have to repeat procedures in order to have the same likelihood of a pregnancy. In other words, it seems like yet another among many “wonderful new IVF inventions” touted by the media, which we, very likely, never will hear about again.
We have always urged patients to focus on getting the treatment tailored to each patient’s needs in a timely manner rather than pursue popular but unproven additions to established IVF protocols in order to maximize their pregnancy chances with IVF. For an in-depth discussion of this point, watch the videos on the importance of getting fertility treatment quickly, making sure your treatment is individualized for you, and being wary of “IVF fads.”