Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen haven’t been shy about their experiences struggling with fertility, but there could be new hope for women who have difficulty conceiving.

Medical scientists in Australia and Belgium have just published findings on a new innovation that uses growth factors to enhance an existing fertility treatment known as in-vitro maturation (IVM). The new method — which has been described as “potent” — showed in pre-clinical testing improved egg quality and a 50 percent increase in embryos over the current IVM method, all with the use of minimal drugs.

"The aim of our research has been to restore as far as possible, the natural processes that occur during egg maturation," said UNSW Associate Professor Robert Gilchrist, who led the international research team. "We have demonstrated that it is possible to improve egg quality and embryo yield with next to no drugs, using potent growth factors produced by the egg."

The innovative technique is awaiting U.S. FDA approval and has significant implications for infertility treatment and fertility preservation worldwide, the researchers said.

Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson, from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute, said the new technique is a significant advance in fertility research.

"While the enhanced IVM treatment is not currently available as a fertility treatment option, if it is accepted into clinical practice it will remove the need for a woman to inject herself with high doses of hormones for up to 12 days," he explained.

Unlike standard in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), IVM retrieves eggs while they are still in the immature stage, and brings them to maturity in cell culture, requiring minimal hormone stimulation. This new technique has enhanced the effectiveness of the IVM process significantly.

"Most importantly, it could give a woman almost the same chance of becoming pregnant as with hormone-stimulated IVF," Associate Professor Thompson said.

This fertility innovation has potential benefits for women, even very young women, facing certain health conditions.

"Young women facing cancer treatment, who wish to preserve their fertility but often don't have time to freeze their eggs, will also benefit from this breakthrough," Professor Michel De Vos from UZ Brussels said.

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