In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment cost tens of thousands of dollars because of the techniques involved in fertilizing eggs under laboratory conditions. This leaves many, who do not have the means to pay for such treatments, out. Researchers of a new IVF technique suggest that "that the cost of [their] simplified laboratory system is between 10% and 15% of current costs in Western-style IVF programs." They calculated that a cycle of IVF with their new, simplified procedure can be performed for around €200 ($257). According to the researchers, the treatment could be useful in the developing world, but the steeply discounted price may be attractive to women and couples in the developed world as well.

The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology and showed the same rates of fertility as traditional IVF treatments at around 30 percent. Since the introduction of IVF in the late 1970s, over five million babies have been born through the technique.

The process does away with the complicated need for CO2 (carbon dioxide) incubators, medical gas supplies, and air purification systems. Alternatively, the researchers used inexpensive citric acid and bicarbonate of soda to produce carbon dioxide. The study, which began in 2012, looked at women under the age of 36 and observed the quality of embryos three days after in vitro fertilization as well as the rate of pregnancy after implantation.

According to the report, "an interim analysis of outcomes (as presented today) showed similar rates of fertilisation and embryo cleavage (early stage development at 3 days) in both groups. However, in 23 out of 35 cycles assessed (65.7%) the top quality embryo selected by an independent embryologist originated from the simplified culture system (the new cheaper system). In this low-cost group the implantation rate was 34.8% (8/23), with an ongoing pregnancy rate of 30.4% (7/23), with one miscarriage at eight weeks' gestation. The first lowcost baby was a healthy boy (3500 grams, 52 cm) born at 40 weeks' gestation. Up to 31 May this year, 12 healthy babies had been born vaginally."

"Our initial results are proof of principle that a simplified culture system designed for developing countries can offer affordable and successful opportunities for infertility treatment where IVF is the only solution," said Dr. Klerkx, of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology, in a press statement. "This is a major step towards universal fertility care. "If combined with single embryo transfer and low stimulation protocols, we estimate the cost of a treatment cycle can be less than 200 euro - with laboratory costs between 10% and 15% of those in Western-style programmes."

Setting up a full-scale IVF lab costs over two million dollars, and the cost to upkeep laboratory and expensive supplies is even greater. The new cheaper labs, however, can be set up for less than half a million dollars, and one such lab is being built in Belgium by November.

"The method not only offers affordable and successful access to IVF, but will make effective treatment techniques available to a much larger part of the world's infertile population. This, therefore, may also be considered an important breakthrough in terms of human rights, equity and social justice," said Klerkx.

The BBC reports that the research group already has interest and demand in the U.S. where fertility treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars per cycle and are not always effective.

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