Hospital pioneers use of 'natural fertilisation' device for IVF patients

Fertility specialists based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are the first in the UK to offer IVF patients a groundbreaking treatment that allows fertilisation to take place inside the body.

The technique, which uses a device called AneVivo, involves placing egg and sperm cells within a tiny capsule which is placed painlessly into the womb for 24 hours, during which time embryos begin to develop.

Doctors then remove the device, which is around 1cm long and 1mm wide, and, after two to four days, select the embryos that are healthy enough to be implanted back into the lining of the womb in the hope of achieving a pregnancy.

With conventional IVF treatment, eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory before doctors select the embryos to return to the womb to continue the treatment process.

”The introduction of this device signals a real breakthrough in IVF treatment as it enables women to care for an embryo in its earliest stages of development for the first time,” explained Professor Nick Macklon, medical director at Complete Fertility Centre Southampton, which is located within the city’s Princess Anne Hospital.

“That is important psychologically as it involves parents-to-be directly with the fertilisation process and early embryo development but, perhaps more importantly, it also could provide many potential health benefits for babies born following fertility treatment.”

Prof Macklon, who was involved with the development of the device, said research was ongoing into the long-term health of babies born following fertility treatment and whether or not it could be improved by a reduction in the time spent in the laboratory.

“Babies born following IVF treatment have been shown to have lower than normal birth weight and, although not initially a problem, we know there is a link between low birth weight and long-term health and the laboratory environment could play a part in this,” he said.

“Through the use of AneVivo, in addition to the fact fertilisation takes place in the natural environment of the womb with access to nutrients and signals from the mother, we can reduce exposure to the synthetic culture fluids used in the laboratory and help to determine precisely what effect this may have.”

Prof Macklon, who is also chair in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, added: “This is a very significant moment in the advancement of fertility treatment in the UK and we are all extremely excited to be able to offer patients the option of a more natural fertilisation process.”

Martin Velasco, founder, chairman and CEO of device manufacturer Anecova, said: “The AneVivo device allows free passage of fluids, nutrients, endometrial cells and other cellular and non-cellular components to enable interaction between the embryos and the maternal environment and we are delighted Complete Fertility Centre Southampton is able to bring this innovation to patients in the UK for the first time.”

The AneVivo device was approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in September and is now available at Complete Fertility Centre Southampton. For more information, visit www.completefertility.co.uk or call 023 8120 6980.

Posted on Tuesday 19 January 2016