Keck School of Medicine researchers are conducting first-of-its-kind study
LOS ANGELES (June 15, 2005)�Fertility researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have achieved America’s first pregnancy of triplets resulting from frozen eggs.
It is the first triplet pregnancy in the world using a woman’s own frozen eggs.
Physicians from USC Fertility, a nonprofit fertility practice at USC, implanted the fertilized eggs as part of an ongoing clinical trial. The physicians have a 20-year background in cryopreservation: In 1986, USC doctors achieved the conception of America’s first baby born after embryo freezing, and in 1987, reported the first triplet pregnancy after frozen embryo transfer.
John K. Jain, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School, is principal investigator on the self-funded study to examine the viability of egg freezing. Richard J. Paulson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School and director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, is co-investigator.
Jain notes that the technology is needed for women who might otherwise have no way to conceive a child. “Many young women diagnosed with cancer lose their fertility through cancer treatment. They lose their ability to have children in the future,” Jain says. “Some women also undergo early menopause. This gives them the chance to still have a family.”
The USC study is designed to evaluate the efficiency of egg freezing. Patients in the study are volunteers who need in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive and who have agreed to have all their eggs frozen. The eggs are kept in liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees Celsius), then they are thawed, inseminated and placed back in the patient’s uterus. Los Angeles resident Silvia Fajardo, a 31-year-old infertile woman, is expected to deliver her fraternal triplets in early 2006. She and her husband, Eric Alberto Urzua, 28, are part of the USC trial, which is the first of its kind. Researchers plan to release initial results from their study in late 2005.
“This study is very important for anyone who is longing for a family,” says Fajardo. “We know there are many families in the world, who have spent so many years, so many sad times hoping for a family. This kind of treatment can make their dreams come true, as it did ours.”
While physicians have used frozen sperm and frozen embryos to help couples achieve pregnancy for decades, the practice of cryopreserving eggs for future fertilization remains relatively rare, with only about 200 babies born worldwide through this technique. The first pregnancy from a frozen egg was reported in 1986, while the world’s only other triplet pregnancy from frozen eggs involved an egg donor and was reported in Buenos Aires in 1998.
However, physicians have not yet established egg freezing as a standard fertility therapy. To do that, they must evaluate the therapy through rigorous scientific testing and peer-reviewed studies. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine currently considers egg freezing investigational and recommends its use only through clinical trials.
That is why Jain and Paulson take the technology so seriously. “When a woman wants to save her eggs for the future, that’s her genetic legacy,” Jain says. “We have to be very cautious with that. Fortunately, blending excellent lab science with our established clinical skills, we have achieved outstanding success with pregnancy through this technology.”
Paulson explains that the group has honed the technology in a number of areas: the stimulation of egg production, the slow-freezing method and culture medium, and thawing and transfer techniques. Only after they were confident of the technology’s potential did they begin the clinical trial in July 2004.
“Even with all of our groundwork, we anticipated a relatively low implantation rate. This is why our protocol calls for transferring up to 4 embryos at one time,” says Paulson. “But the success rate is much higher than we had expected. The fact that we have 3 babies out of 4 embryos replaced just shows how well the freezing of eggs is working. This is great news for our study and also for those who need egg freezing now.”
USC Fertility is a leader in fertility-related clinical research and is dedicated to developing treatment breakthroughs and providing all potential parents reliable and scientifically tested alternatives for building families today and tomorrow. For more information visit www.USCFertility.org or call (213) 975-9990.