23May/17

Commercial surrogacy in Canada to become legal soon

Fertility specialists are urging the government to overturn a 13-year-old ban that makes commercial surrogacy in Canada illegal. It is also illegal in Canada to pay for donor eggs and sperms, which the doctors say, largely limits the options for infertile couples.

The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) suggests that with the people becoming more familiar with infertility problems and more accepting of assisted reproduction technologies, it is only appropriate the government allows for commercialisation of key human elements under careful regulation.

It is important to note here that surrogacy in Canada was allowed but the surrogate could not accept any fee from the commissioning parents.

The 2004 law allows surrogates and donors of egg and sperm to be reimbursed for some expenses but makes it a crime to pay them fees. 

Canadians have been travelling for surrogacy in Punjab, India for the obvious cost benefit ans easy process but they might want to stay back in their home country, if the Government allows it.

 

Why are people still travelling for surrogacy in Canada?

Intending parents still travel to avail surrogacy in Canada because ambiguous regulations allow people to find loopholes and Canadians continue to deliver surrogate babies for foreigners.

Besides, the pregnancy and delivery costs of the surrogate are covered by Canada’s universal health care system, as it is for any other pregnant lady in the country.

Surrogacy agencies even market this price advantage in Canada, noting that in comparison foreign intending parents pay for health insurance for the surrogate mother in the US. 

What are the murky laws of Canada surrogacy?

Lawyers refer to Canada as the “wild west” for surrogacy because the laws are so unclear that people can bend them to their advantage.

According to Arthur Leader, a partner at the Ottawa Fertility Centre, who also often advises governments on assisted human reproduction policies, “anything goes.”

He calls on federal officials to finally draft out some firm rules for Canadian surrogacy because the current system “doesn’t protect anybody and doesn’t act in the best interest of the child or the commissioning couple or the surrogate,” he says in a report published by the CBC.

In a 2010 ruling the Supreme Court of Canada struck down parts of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, rendering a lot of issues unclear. Compensation for egg donors, sperm donors, and surrogates, was legally banned but the court allows them to be reimbursed for certain expenses—without clearly defining what those expenses are. 

So the compensation is open to interpretation and it is easy to breach the rule, which fertility brokers and others often do.

 “There is an altruistic element to it, but I’ve honestly in my career never met someone who is willing to do that for free for a stranger,” said Dr. Jeff Roberts, president of the CFAS. “But there may be a sizeable number willing to do it if at least they’re compensated for wages and some of their time.”

Despite foreign families taking advantage of Canada’s murky laws, most Canadians, who wouldn’t take a risk on the law, have to resort to fertility tourism and import the gametes from the US.

 

Govt. agrees to regulate Surrogacy in Canada

Finally, the government plans to develop regulations for testing and screening egg donors and rules for tracing donations.

Noting that the AHR act was intended “to protect and promote the health, safety, dignity and rights of individuals who use, or are born of assisted human reproduction,” the department announced its decision to consider the proposed changes.

These changes respond to evolving technology, said Health Minister Jane Philpott, adding that many Canadians have benefited from the scientific developments in ART.

“Our laws need to adapt so that they can continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” she said. “By adopting new regulations, we will continue to ensure that the risks posed are minimized and families are supported.”

Comments on the proposed changes will be heard until Nov. 29 and the people concerned can also offer suggestions when the regulations are previewed in the Canada Gazette, later.

11Mar/17

Male infertility can be resolved with this protein : Study

Researchers at Qatar University have identified a key protein in human sperm as a vital component of the fertilization process. Problems with a protein known as phospholipase C zeta (PLC-zeta) is thought to be the causative factor for male infertility, and fixing this could be a real solution for men facing infertility.

During lab experiments, the investigators were able to bring about fertilization of eggs by injecting them with larger amounts of PLC-zeta protein from men who were otherwise infertile.

Infertile men were found to have either reduced amounts or some mutation of the said protein, rendering it ineffective and consequently failing the process of fertilization, even in cases where rigorous ivf technique was followed.

“Recent clinical studies have highlighted the crucial importance of PLC-zeta in human fertilization, reporting that sperm from infertile patients, who exhibited failed fertilization even after the most powerful in vitro fertilization techniques, contained either reduced amounts or mutated forms of this protein,” said Dr. Michail Nomikos of Qatar University in Doha, who was the lead author of the Biochemical Journal paper, as reported in the Science Daily.

In the process of natural or in-vitro fertilization—just before an embryo begins to form, the human egg is known to undergo a significant increase in calcium levels known as “calcium oscillations,” which are actually activated by a nudge from the sperm.

This elevation in calcium levels is considered vital not only for fertilization but also for early development of the embryo.

The sperm-specific PLC-zeta protein was discovered back in 2002 by Professor Tony Lai of Cardiff University, UK and his colleagues. Professor Lai is also a senior author in this new study and the research performed by him over this past decade has revealed that PLC-zeta is actually the key activator of calcium oscillations in the egg during fertilization.

Dr. Nomikos and his colleagues, in the current study, found on injecting mouse eggs with lower levels of the abnormal PLC-zeta protein (as found in infertile men), failed to bring about any calcium oscillations and consequently no fertilization resulted. However, on increasing amount of the injected protein, it was observed that calcium oscillations started and subsequently the fertilization process began.

According to the researchers, these finding could prove very helpful in treatment of this type of infertility in the coming future.

“The identification and characterization of another male infertility-linked PLC-zeta mutation necessitates that we begin to consider use of recombinant PLC-zeta protein in a clinical setting, with the aim being to rescue such cases of egg activation failure,” said Professor Lai.

“We believe that our research can eventually give hope to many infertile couples in the near future; our goal is to help them have a family,” he added.

This research was originally published by the Biochemical Society.

05Mar/17

Baby born to woman who had ovary frozen at nine years

A 24-year-old woman has given birth to a baby after her fertility was restored with the ovarian tissue frozen when she was just nine.

This is the first instance of live birth from frozen tissue and a breakthrough for patients who want to undergo IVF after chemotherapy.

Moaza Al Matrooshi, now 24, said the arrival of her baby son was “like a miracle.”

Infertility from cancer treatments

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy are known to leave the patient infertile but after this breakthrough, young cancer survivors should have hope.

Al Matrooshi, from Dubai, was born with beta thalassaemia—a blood disorder that is lethal if left untreated.

She needed chemotherapy before undergoing bone marrow transplant, which was carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

The chemo would have left her ovaries damaged, so before starting treatment she had her right ovary removed and frozen, at an operation in Leeds.

She was nine years at the time.

Specialists were able to preserve the ovary, which remained frozen until last year when it was sent to Denmark, where the transplant took place.

Eggs from the ovary were used to perform IVF and Al Matrooshi, whose son was delivered at the privately-run Portland Hospital in December 2016, said, “It is a perfect feeling.”

“We’ve been waiting so long for this result – a healthy baby,” she said. “I always believed that I would be a mum and that I would have a baby. I didn’t stop hoping and now I have this baby.”

Preservation of fertility

When she was a young child, the fertility preservation procedure was carried out by Professor Helen Picton, Head of the Division of Reproduction and Early Development at the University of Leeds.

Professor Picton said, “It is the first time that the success of the procedure has been shown in a pre-pubertal girl, and I’m delighted that this young woman has had her baby.”

The other ovary was left in her body but the harm caused by chemotherapy drugs rendered it useless and Al Matrooshi started undergoing menopause in her early twenties.

After being married, in 2015 she worked with her gynaecologist to start transplantation of some of her stored ovarian tissue.

Following the transplant her eggs started maturing, her hormone levels began returning to normal, she began ovulating, and her fertility was restored.

Fertility restoration in women & men

Professor Picton told the BBC that Moaza was “one of the first patients we helped back in 2001, before any baby had been born from ovary tissue preservation.”

“Worldwide more than 60 babies have been born from women who had their fertility restored, but Moaza is the first case from pre-pubertal freezing and the first from a patient who had treatment for beta thalassaemia,” he said.

Professor Picton is now carrying out further research to see if immature eggs can be fertilized in the lab and used for IVF, in case transplantation of ovarian tissue is not an option.

“These are young cancer patients, for example, who might be at high risk of reintroducing cancer cells to the body through the transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue,” he said.

“We’ll also be using the technologies for the in vitro growth and culture of ovarian tissue as a means of testing the ovarian toxicity of contemporary cancer drugs, so that will help us predict the likely risk to young patients of losing their fertility in the future.”

Recently, in a separate study, scientists at the University of Texas found that a drug could be used to restore spermatogenesis in men who have become infertile due to cancer treatments.

If you have any questions or comments regarding cancer treatments and infertility, please share below.
17Feb/17

Drug can restore sperm generation in cancer patients—Study

Infertility attributed to cancer treatments in men can be avoided with a drug that is also used prevent infections in cancer patients.

Cancer treatments often cease sperm production in men, leaving them infertile, but researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), have found that a drug could restore sperm generation in men who undergo chemo or radiotherapy.

After working in the field for several years, the researchers discovered the action of a drug capable of restarting sperm production in men, who had undergone treatment for cancer in childhood.

Unexpected finding

The drug is called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor), and it works by stimulating the bone marrow to produce neutrophils—the white blood cells that infections, and which are generally lost after chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

The study, led by Brian Hermann, assistant professor of biology at UTSA, was published here in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.

The researchers said that while conducting other experiments, they realised that G-CSF unexpectedly began regenerating sperm.

“We were using G-CSF to prevent infections in our research experiments,” Hermann said. “It turned out that the drug also had the unexpected impact of guarding against male infertility.”

What can we expect further?

Hermann’s laboratory is exclusively focused on regenerating dead testicular tissue through the use of stem cells, which makes this project an exciting albeit unexpected deviation that he hopes to continue working on.

The next step would be to observe if cancer patients see any improvement in their fertility with the use of the drug, which is already prescribed often by oncologists. In the meantime, Hermann is focussed on trying to figure the working of stem cells that can make male reproduction possible, so we can have better solutions to treating male infertility.

“Male infertility is an intuitive disease and we need creative solutions,” he said. “But we need to understand how things work before we can fix them.”

As of now, men have the option of having their sperm frozen before they start the cancer treatments but we look forward to a drug that can help restore fertility in men.

For more information on sperm freezing or a consultation with our infertility specialist, please fill the form on the right.
10Feb/17

Endometriosis does not affect IVF Success – Study

If you are facing endometriosis related infertility and are considering IVF, your chances of success are the same as the women without endometriosis, says a recent study.

According to the study “The impact of endometriosis on the outcome of Assisted Reproductive Technology,” published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, endometriosis does not affect the chances of a woman to conceive and have a successful pregnancy through IVF.

Although the endometriosis-affected women produced fewer eggs, their ability to fertilize was not changed.

The results of the study involving more than 22,000 women, contradict earlier suggestions that artificial reproductive technologies may be less effective in women with endometriosis.

Endometriosis accounts for about 40 percent of all cases of infertility in women. This recent study should serve as an encouragement to all women who suffer from endometriosis and are looking to become pregnant.

Some previous studies have shown poor IVF results in women with endometriosis, while others had shown that endometriosis has no effect on IVF outcomes.

In a separate analysis, researchers at the Hospital del Mar in Spain evaluated a group of women undergoing assisted reproduction.

Of the total of 22,416 women that they analysed, 3,583 had endometriosis and the rest 18,833 reported of infertility due to tubal factors, hormonal disorders, or other problems.

All of these women underwent IVF or ICSI and it was found that their success rates were not affected by endometriosis.

Although women with endometriosis produced lesser number of eggs, the fertilization rate was similar to other women.

After considering the age of the male partner and the number of fertilized eggs (embryos) transferred in the womb, the researchers found that the rate of live birth were also similar in both groups of women.

Other outcomes, such as clinical pregnancies and miscarriages were also similar between the endometriosis and non-endometriosis groups of women.

Similar findings were observed on grouping the women according to age. Women under 35 years of age with endometriosis had similar IVF outcomes as women without endometriosis in the same age group. In the age groups of 35-40 years the results were also found to be unaffected by endometriosis.

Conclusion

Women diagnosed with endometriosis-associated infertility do not have significantly different outcomes from IVF as women without the disease. Although women with endometriosis produce lesser numbers of eggs, their fertilization rate is not impaired and they have the same chances of achieving a live birth as women seeking IVF due to other reasons.

 

Have you been affected by endometriosis? Are you trying to, or have tried to get pregnant with IVF despite endometriosis?Please share your experience in the comments below. It could be really valuable to someone.

To know more about endometriosis and your chances of becoming pregnant with IVF, you can reach out to us via the form on the right.