Gene-editing could boost IVF success rates in the future

gene editing and IVF success

British scientists have managed to genetically modify human embryos for the first time ever. The major breakthrough means IVF success rates could be significantly improved in future, providing hope for those struggling with fertility problems.

After being granted permission to experiment with human embryos for the first time in British history, the scientists discovered a key piece of DNA known as the Oct4 gene. They found this gene is crucial for successful pregnancies and it could be responsible for infertility, as well as miscarriages.

The ability to modify human embryos could now lead to potentially more successful fertility treatments, as well as help with better embryo selection.

Genome editing will transform our understanding of human biology

The scientists behind the study have claimed Genome editing could completely transform our understanding of human biology. Using the technique, the scientists managed to remove the Oct4 gene from the embryo, which stopped it from developing the structure of the placenta.

Not only do scientists claim this breakthrough could significantly improve IVF success rates, but they also say it could lead to the development of regenerative medicine. In particular, there’s the potential to use stem cells to repair damage or replace certain structures within the body.

Experimentation with human embryos is extremely controversial, and there are strict rules in the UK scientists need to adhere to. It is also illegal to let embryos develop for a period of more than 14 days and that includes implanting them into female patients.

The embryos used throughout the trial were donated by women who had undergone successful IVF treatment. They were also destroyed within seven days of the study.

Study acts as a follow on from US embryo research

This may be the first time Brits have experimented on human embryos in such a manner, but there’s also been an exciting development over in the US. Scientists have discovered a way to remove a single, faulty gene which is responsible for a deadly inherited heart disease.

Using a technique referred to as CRISPR, the scientists were able to literally cut out the faulty gene from freshly fertilised eggs. They claim the technique could now help save millions of lives and prevent babies being born with deadly illnesses.

What it means for IVF patients

This major breakthrough does prove extremely promising for couples struggling with infertility and other fertility issues. If fertility experts are able to identify more viable embryos, for example, it will boost the success rate significantly, as well as reduce the chance of miscarriage.

Although the identification and modification of the Oct4 gene do give strong hope to improve IVF success rates, however, more research will need to be done on other genes embryos require in order to grow properly. The scientists have stressed that this study and breakthrough is simply the first step and it could take quite a few years to fully understand why some pregnancies do fail.

Overall, this new discovery does provide hope for future IVF patients, but it is unlikely to be able to be used for quite a few years. In the meantime, other research has recently revealed women who do experience a miscarriage after falling pregnant during their first cycle of fertility treatment, are more likely than those who didn’t fall pregnant, to have a successful pregnancy with further treatment.