Egg freezing success
A revolutionary technique has produces the UK's first 'frozen egg' pregnancy and gives hope to thousands of young cancer victims
For 15 years, human embryos have been successfully frozen and thawed to grow into healthy babies. But freezing and thawing human eggs has always been harder. Unfertilised eggs are very fragile - ice crystals can form inside and damage the delicate contents.
Despite this, Midland Fertility Services - a leading fertility clinic based in Aldridge in the West Midlands - announced the first 'frozen egg' pregnancy in the UK late last year. The patient had her eggs harvested and then frozen for three months while she underwent medical treatment. The eggs were then thawed, fertilised by her husband's sperm and then implanted in her uterus. She achieved a positive pregnancy test on the second attempt, and the couple's baby is expected in the spring.
Previous attempts to freeze human eggs have proved unsuccessful, but the revolutionary technique adopted by Midland Fertility Services uses a new 'anti-freeze' mixture that prevents ice crystals forming and increases the survival rate of the eggs.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, the Medical Director of MFS says, 'The implications of this new treatment are far-reaching - especially for the one in 1,000 teenagers and young women who are struck down by cancers such as leukaemia or Hodgkin's lymphoma.
'Although modern chemotherapy is very effective and most young patients have a 75-80 per cent chance of going into remission and eventual cure, the price they pay is very high - the majority will have an early menopause and end up sterile while still in their teens or early twenties.'
Successful egg freezing offers the opportunity to delay childbearing for less serious reasons. In theory, frozen healthy young eggs can last indefinitely in suspended animation. This would avoid the problem of egg deterioration as a woman ages, which increases the possibility of chromosomal disorders such as Down's Syndrome.
Dr Lockwood says, 'Technically, we are now there - we could offer egg-freezing to young single women in their 20s or early 30s who were afraid that their biological clock would have run down before they met the right father for their babies.
'However, most babies will continue to get made with a mixture of champagne and moonlight, not with frozen eggs and anti-freeze!'
If you are interested in egg-freezing, visit the clinic's website: www.midlandfertility.com