This exciting concept involves harnessing mitochondria from a woman’s ovary (from a biopsy at laparoscopy) and then injecting them into an egg during the ICSI procedure. Mitochondria are the main energy drivers in all cells, and it is believed that such a boost may improve egg quality. It is so new that fewer than a hundred cases have been reported so far, but Dr Sacks is collaborating with the company involved and they are hoping to bring this technology as a trial to Australia soon.

– Dr Gavin Sacks

Groundbreaking research presented in Perth could pave the way for older women to have babies by “freshening up” their ageing eggs.

Canadian reproductive endocrinologist Robert Casper yesterday revealed progress into so-called ovarian rejuvenation, where doctors use healthy young cells from the ovaries to re-energise a woman’s eggs.

The main obstacle for women in their 40s to become pregnant is that they are born with all their eggs, which deteriorate over time.

But doctors believe they can turn back the clock by using egg precursor cells harvested from tiny pieces of tissue removed surgically from the outer edge of the woman’s own ovaries.

The tissue can be quickly frozen and then thawed to isolate active mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of cells.

Professor Casper told a Fertility Society of Australia conference that a woman’s eggs fell in number and quality in a way that could be likened to a torch being left on a shelf for 40 years.

“That’s about the time it takes for a woman to expire the number of eggs with which she was born,” he said.

“Using the flashlight analogy, the torch itself is OK but the batteries are running flat.

“The focus of our research is on energising old cells, by adding younger and more powerful mitochondria collected from precursor cells lining adult ovaries.”

Professor Casper said the technique would allow a woman with poor egg quality to use her own energised eggs for in-vitro fertilisation.

Researchers initially used the technique on mice to prove it worked, before adapting it for women on IVF programs in Toronto who had failed to conceive because of poor embryo development.

Using the women’s own egg precursor cells, they were able to help many of the women conceive and have healthy babies.

Professor Casper said he hoped the new technique would help more older women and those with premature ovarian ageing to have children.

Article originally posted on The Western Australian on September 8, 2016. Written by Cathy O’Leary.