Aug 23, 2013

By Jane Brown

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It was more than three decades ago the first test tube baby was born.  Since then, in-vitro fertilization has evolved into a highly sophisticated lab procedure.  But European and American scientists say a simplified version of the entire procedure aimed at developing countries could be done for about $265 with generic fertility drugs and basic lab equipment that would fit inside a shoebox.  Jonathan Van Blerkom is a fertility expert at the University of Colorado.  He led the way in developing the cheaper option.  Van Blerkom says, “IVF is made to sound complicated, but the fact is that the early embryo is not very demanding and doesn’t need much beyond some basic solutions, a steady pH level and constant temperature.”

The simpler approach calls for women to take cheaper fertility tablets to stimulate their ovaries to release more than one egg per month.  In conventional IVF, expensive, potent drugs that are injected can produce more than 20 eggs.  Van Blerkom developed the simplified technique after European colleagues asked him how IVF could be done in developing countries.  “My first reaction was, You’ve got to be kidding,” he said.  But with two test tubes and special solutions, “it’s possible to generate the exact same conditions, or very similar, to what people are generating in a $60,000 incubator.”

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