Egg swapping is a special type of IVF treatment that is specifically intended to bring together women who are involved in a conventional IVF treatment, who can produce an excess number of eggs, with a woman who is, for one reason or another unable to produce their own eggs. This unique treatment strategy enables these two groups of women to help one another.
In most of these arrangements, the egg sharer will receive one or more free IVF treatments. Meanwhile, the recipient woman receives the eggs they need for their own course of IVF treatment. Taken in this light it basically means that both the sharer and the recipient are both helping each other to realize their dream of becoming a parent.
This egg swapping process was originally pioneered over two decades by the consultants at the London Women’s Clinic. It has since evolved in technique and also grown in popularity around the globe. To date, several thousand women have benefited from this treatment process all across the world. However, it is still the London Women’s Clinic that is widely regarded as the home of egg swapping techniques and technology. It continues to provide high success rates for both sharers as well as the recipients.
Fertility doctors who provide the egg swapping treatment as part of the menu of services also note that they have helped an infertile woman to become pregnant by combining her egg with that of a donor. Yet there is some controversy to this relatively new and growing IVF technique.
Successful Genetic Exchanges Lead To A New Breakthrough
One example is a Greek woman who is 32 years of age. Her previous four IVF attempts did not result in a successful pregnancy. In order to help, her doctors painstakingly moved the DNA from one of her eggs into an egg that was provided by a donor. The modified egg was then successful fertilized just like any other IVF fertilization treatment.
The Greek woman’s body accepted implantation, and she is under the close monitoring of a physician based out of Barcelona, who originally collaborated with the IVF doctors at the Institute of Life based in Athens.
This technique requires donated eggs, yet the resulting baby is genetically related to the mother. Whereas in the past IVF egg swapping meant that the baby carried the genetic makeup of the sharer. A breakthrough of this magnitude could be a very big deal when it comes to helping younger women deal with infertility problems.
It is especially helpful when you consider that there are some disorders which cause young women to need egg donation. This is often very emotionally traumatic for them.
Debating The Concept Of A Three-Parent Baby
The concept of a three-parent baby is relatively new in societal terms. In a case such as this, the donor’s egg provides the embryo with its mitochondria. This is a very important energy-making structure within each cell. Each has its own genetic material that is passed down from one mother to the next.
This essentially means a very small fraction of the embryo’s DNA comes from the donor. This is the central impetus for the “Three-Parent Baby.” However, this is more of a layman’s term that has no bearing in the technical realm of the process.
Indeed, the scientific name for this technique is “Spindle Transfer.” It is a reference to the chromosomes of the would-be mother. The innovative technique has been used in the past to ensure that certain children are not born with specific fatal genetic diseases that can be passed down from their mother. In the case of the Greek woman, the technique marks one of the more unique ways of treating infertility.
Spindle Transfer For IVF Is Currently Banned In The United States
In the United States, the controversy over the spindle transfer technique has also faced steep political opposition. The underlying technology and technique were initially developed in the Oregon-based laboratory of Shoukhrat Mitalipov. Where it was tested on animals. However, the United States Congress banned its application in America in 2015.
To some degree, this has prompted accelerated development in Europe and other parts of the world. In fact, the first announced birth from a spindle transfer technique was announced in 2016. It was made by a largely American team that was working in Mexico, where the technique is not specifically banned.
Since that time a Ukrainian clinic has also produced a small number of births using a related technique. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration warned to stop advertising the service.
Digging Deeper Into The Controversy
Legal bans, warnings, and heated controversial debate may seem strange to some people. Especially, those individuals and couples who are desperately looking for an option like spindle transfer to help with a fertility problem or a known genetic defect.
It raises the question of just why so many people seem to be morally opposed to medical techniques that are new and out of the ordinary. These tensions seem to be particularly strong when it comes to topics associated with birth and pregnancy.
Ethicists based out of Oxford University in England have composed a new case and in it, they list the many objections that have been brought up over the years. Yet it is also very hard to definitively prove whether a new way of making human beings is truly safe. This is in the face of scientists and fertility specialists who claim to have spent several years trying the technique on animals such as mice and other rodents.
One thing is for sure. When it comes to the technique of spindle transfer for treating infertility, the United States law is cut and dry. However, this doesn’t mean that the debate is over. As both sides gear up for the next round of debate, we can only hope for a level-headed conversation. All the while Americans must look abroad to other countries to pioneer this important technique in hopes of proving it’s viability on domestic shores.
Source – Technology Review