Fertility treatment in the UK costs around £5000 currently but fertility doctors in Belgium believe this cost could be reduced to as little as £170 in what could be a “new era” of IVF treatment.
High levels of carbon dioxide are needed to grow embryos to control acidity levels which drives up costs.
Doctors at the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium have developed a method of mixing inexpensive citric acid and bicarbonate of soda to produce the carbon dioxide and thus this has a huge impact of the cost of growing the embryos.
Lead researcher Prof Willem Ombelet told the BBC website: “We succeeded with an almost Alka-Selzer like technique. Our first results suggest it is at least as good as normal IVF and we now have 12 healthy babies born.”
The results, presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in London, showed a pregnancy rate of 30% which is roughly the same as IVF.
It is important to note however that this new technique will not replace IVF completely and may not be suitable for everyone. For instance, this technique could not help men with severe infertility issues as they require more advanced treatment.
Prof Ombelet told the BBC that this new technique would help bring fertility treatment to more people around the world, he said: “If you don’t have a child in Africa, or also South America or Asia, it’s a disaster. It’s a disaster from an economic point of view, a psychological point of view. They throw you out of the family. You need to help them and nobody helps them.”
The researchers plan to carry out more tests in Africa to see just how viable this new technique could be.
It’s already clear how this could be a real breakthrough for couples who can’t afford traditional IVF treatment.