By Francisco Arredondo, MD MPH
Founder RMA of Texas and SMART IVF
Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, was born in July, 1978. Since then, countless efforts have been made to mimic, in a laboratory setting, the ideal environment present in the female’s uterus for effective egg and sperm fertilization. In the last 40 years the success rates to achieve a live birth with in vitro fertilization have increased from 1 in 12 to approximately 1 in 2 attempts. There is no debating that the science of fertility has come a long way—ultimately improving a woman’s odds to conceive and make the dream of a family a magnificent reality.
“INVOCell™ is certainly the right step towards democratizing fertility treatments and realizing the dream of having a family.”- Dr. Francisco Arredondo
Unfortunately, fertility doctors, scientists, and the in vitro fertilization industry of today have not been able to make these services affordable to many. The price tag is substantial: investments for the in vitro fertilization cycle range from $12,000 to $20,000 dollars per cycle performed. The access to fertility care is in nowhere near where it should be in the United States, let alone in other less-privileged countries. Of 100 women that need IVF, approximately only 15 are capable of pursuing such treatment. The majority of women who fail to receive adequate fertility care are burdened by financial constraints and cannot afford it.
Fortunately for these women their luck is about to change, thanks to the efforts of French specialist Claude Ranoux and his invention, INVOCell™. The technology associated with INVOCell™ though not a do-it-yourself kind of deal is substantially more accessible to patients; and it is estimated that the cost for many candidates will drop by as much as 50-70% from the original price. Rather than relying on expensive and sophisticated machinery to attempt to replicate a woman’s corporal conditions, INVOCell™ allows the patient to act as her own incubator—essentially transforming the woman into her own laboratory and capitalizing on the fact that she has the right environmental conditions. INVOCell™ is a clever gadget; cylindrical in shape, about 1.5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, and made of gas permeable polystyrene. It has two concentric chambers, thus preventing the bacteria from reaching the gametes in the inner chamber. The FDA has approved the device and several trials have already confirmed its safety. The new in vivo fertilization process, which we have termed S.M.A.R.T. IVF™, (Simple Mindful Affordable Reproductive Technology), allows us to reduce the total cost of the process by more than half the original price: 75% less cost in medication, 80% less in blood draws, and 50% less in monitoring.
“Of 100 women that need IVF, approximately only 15 are capable of pursuing such treatment.” – Dr. Francisco Arredondo
In vitro fertilization can be divided into 3 steps:
- Egg collection
- Embryo transfer.
During a S.M.A.R.T. IVF cycle we perform a very gentle egg stimulation with medications such as Clomid and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) that allow us to mature and obtain anywhere between 4 and 10 eggs while the patient is under sedation. We then use the INVOCell device as the place where the sperm and egg meet. There is no discomfort whatsoever once the device is placed inside the patient. Finally, after a few days, we remove the device and identify the best embryo to transfer inside the uterus. We then wait 11 more days to test for pregnancy. Our experience at Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) of Texas and SMART IVF has yielded the same encouraging results as FDA studies have. For the correct patients, the clinical pregnancy rate (fetal heart rate present at 7 weeks) is
around 55% after the first attempt. For example, patients that have had previous tubal ligation and are looking to have a cumbersome and expensive surgery to connect back their tubes now can use INVOCell™ in a more simple and inexpensive manner. While not every couple is a candidate for this innovative system, and in vitro fertilization will continue to be the gold standard of difficult cases, many scientists are very excited about the countless opportunities for providing the marvel of parenthood to couples who were previously unable to afford it. INVOCell™ is certainly the right step towards democratizing fertility treatments and realizing the dream of having a family.