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Connor: First IVF Baby Born Using New Technique

Update Date: Jul 08, 2013 10:00 AM EDT
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Connor Levy was born just over a month ago and already, he has made history. Connor, who was born in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, was the first ever in-vitro fertilization (IVF) baby to be born after doctors used a new technique that makes screening embryos during IVF significantly cheaper than the usual methods. Not only is this method cheaper, it could potentially lead to higher success rates for a healthy infant. However, larger trials and studies still need to be conducted.

Connor's parents, Marybeth Schiedts, 36, and Daniel Levy, 41, have attempted the fertility treatment, intrauterine insemination (IUI) three times and were unsuccessful every time. IUI works by placing concentrated sperm directly into the uterus during the time of ovulation, increasing the chances of fertilization. Shortly after, the couple decided to sign up for a study called IVF at Main Line Fertility Clinic in Pennsylvania. At the clinic, the couple worked with fertility specialist, Dagan Wells from Oxford University, who was a part of this international study.

The couple then underwent next generation sequencing (NGS), which was created with the purpose of providing couples a cheap and effective way of reading whole genomes. NGS allows doctors to read individual chromosomes and screen them for potential risk factors. The doctors would then implant only the normal chromosomes and attempt to weed out the abnormal ones. Abnormal chromosomes are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all miscarriages. The likelihood of having an embryo with abnormalities increases the older the parents are. Nearly one in 10 women in their 20s has the potential of having an embryo with the wrong number of chromosomes. When women reach their 40s, the risk factor increases by over 75 percent.

After the NGS, the couple had 13 different IVF embryos to pick from. The embryos were all cultured and sent to Wells, who genetically screened them for any abnormalities. Wells found that only three of the samples had the right number of chromosomes even though all embryos appeared healthy. The U.S. doctors implanted Marybeth with the best IVF embryo and froze the rest. Fortunately, the other samples were not required immediately because their first choice produced a healthy baby boy.

"I think it saved us a lot of heartache," Scheidts told The Guardian. "My insurance covered me for three cycles of IVF. We might have gone through all three without the doctors picking the right embryos. I would not have a baby now."

Although there is already a way to genetically screen embryos, called Array CGH, the procedure alone can cost a family over 2,000 pounds or a little under $3000. According to Wells, the price of this new genetic screening method would be just one-third of the costs of getting Array CGH.

A second IVF baby who the same genetic screening is expected to be born next month. The study was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

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