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Fertility Doctor of the Month: Jamie Grifo, M.D., Ph.D.
“Our whole philosophy has always been to try and continue to improve our ability to help patients. And so there’s always a research focus on making it better.” -- Dr. Jamie Grifo
FertilityAuthority is pleased to recognize Dr. Grifo, a leader in fertility preservation with egg freezing, as Fertility Doctor of the Month.
Grifo’s interest in egg freezing was born out of his work with egg donation. In 1995, he and the NYU team were working on an egg donation method that involved taking the nucleus out of an older egg and putting it in a young egg, whereby the patient got to keep their own chromosomes. According to Grifo it created a stir because there were concerns about the mitochondrial DNA from the egg donor being mixed with the nuclear DNA from the mother. “The next thing you know someone coined the term that never goes away, which is totally inaccurate: ‘the baby with three parents.’ We had spent five years and half a million dollars of private funding on this project and I knew right then and there it was dead,” he said.
It then became clear that the best way to approach egg donation was to freeze a woman’s own eggs so she could become her own egg donor. The team spent four years in the mouse lab and developed their own vitrification method based on the animal studies Grifo says they got very efficient at making mouse babies through egg freezing.
NYU then provided 23 free cycles of egg freezing to a group of volunteers doing their first IVF cycle. They got the same baby rate from frozen thawed eggs as fresh IVF.
“We’re always constantly tweaking and trying to improve our outcomes. We did it for free to prove that it worked before we even offered it clinically and charged for it. That’s why we spent four years in the mouse lab, making sure we could have good results from it. We spent that time reviewing existing methods and reviewing new methods. At the time we didn’t know if slow freeze or vitrification was better. We suspected vitrification was better but there was conflicting data in the literature, so we did both until we had enough data to support our thesis that vitrification was the way to go.” NYU has developed and uses its own vitrification method.
NYU started offering egg freezing in 2004, and to date has frozen 1,500 cycles of eggs from approximately 1,300 patients and has thawed about 160 cycles. Their pregnancy rate appears to be consistent with IVF.
What’s the message he wants women to have about egg freezing? “The real message is that women need to be more active in the area of their fertile life as they can be,” Grifo says. “There’s only so much you can plan. You can’t plan the guy, you can’t plan the circumstance. You can’t necessarily plan to have a baby. But what you can do is think about who you are and how you want that to be part of your life and then know what the options are so you make good decisions around it."
"I think that’s the underlying consult with patients interested in egg freezing. Just because it’s there you shouldn’t just do it. It’s an option, not an obligation. It has limitations. It’s a hope, not a promise. It’s one reproductive alternative if you’re getting older and if you see you’re going to be delaying childbearing.”
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