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Electrical Jolt to Egg May Boost IVF Success

REUTERS,  Feb 9, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For couples seeking pregnancy when the man has low sperm counts, the chances that in vitro fertilization will be successful seem to be improved somewhat by "electroactivation" of the fertilized egg.

Doctors in Egypt report this finding in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility. Still, they call for further studies to verify the safety of the technique.

The study, centered at a private IVF center in Egypt, included 246 men with very low sperm counts or totally immotile sperm. Using a standard technique called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), individual spermatozoa were inserted into eggs taken from the men's partners.

Pairs of eggs were randomly divided into a group that received electroactivation and one that did not. Electroactivation was performed 30 minutes after ICSI, by placing the egg between two electrodes and administering two 50-microsecond pulses at 130 volts.

With electroactivation, the fertilization rate was 68%, significantly higher from a statistical standpoint than the 60% rate seen without electroactivation, report Dr. Ragaa Mansour and colleagues, from the Egyptian IVF-ET Center in Cairo.

Whether this difference is meaningful in real-life practice is not clear, however, because actual pregnancy rates did not seem to be better.

Also, the investigators note that the miscarriage rate in the electroactivation group was higher than that in the control group. The numbers are too small to reach firm conclusions, and studies with larger samples sizes and longer follow-up are therefore needed.

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, January 2009.


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