A cheap form of IVF, which uses baking soda, is to go on trial in Britain next month.
This method costs one third of the price of standard treatment as there are no costly equipment and drugs involved.
During conventional IVF, the embryo is grown in a nutrient mixture in a large incubator with expensive carbon dioxide being pumped through.
However, scientists based at Colorado University in the US have found that they could obtain the same effect by using sodium bicarbonate and citric acid, in other words – baking soda.
This allows for the embryo to require a much smaller incubator for growth.
This technique, which is called the simplified culture system, has already resulted in the birth of about 18 healthy babies within Belgium.
As part of the British trial, 50 women under the age of 37 will pay £1000 for the procedure. This treatment will initially be available privately only, but doctors hope that if it proves to be successful, it will eventually be offered on the NHS.
Currently, the cost of standard IVF is at least £3000, which implies that this new version costs one third of the standard version’s cost.
The director of the Walking Egg Foundation, the charity managing the procedure, Dr Geeta Nargund, said the focus was for the development of a simple, low-cost procedure for the provision of IVF to the developing world.
She said public funding for IVD is very limited in the UK and the significant reduction in cost with this new method could offer an opportunity to end the postcode lottery as more cycles could be offered within the existing NHS budgets.
The trials which were done in Belgium indicated that this new procedure offered the same success rate of conventional IVF at around 34%. It has resulted in the births of 18 babies, with six women pregnant currently.
The lead researcher of this study, Professor Jonathan Van Blerkom, wrote in the paper that although demand for IVF has not diminished since it was first introduced almost 35 years ago, the cost of treatment has not declined either, but has progressively increased.
Image Credit: Jerry Lai