20.01.2012

Women egg donors needed for pioneering work

North East women are being asked to consider donating their eggs for research in order to push forward a pioneering technique which could eliminate serious inherited disorders.

Despite about 100 women already coming forward to support the research, Newcastle fertility experts need more eggs to progress the work into becoming an accepted treatment.

Mitochondrial diseases are passed on by the mother and the new technique, which has been developed at Newcastle University, would reduce the risk of transmission of these disorders. This would allow the mother to give birth to a healthy child and eliminate mitochondrial diseases from the family line.

The call follows two announcements which will have major implications for the Newcastle work; firstly, that the Wellcome Trust has given £4.4 million to Newcastle University to help develop the technique so that it is ready to be used in patients, and secondly, that the Government are to hold a public consultation into changing the law so that families could benefit from the new treatment.

But, the work could be held back if they don’t have enough eggs for the research.

Currently under the egg-sharing scheme women undergoing IVF can receive a reduction in their treatment cost if they donate half their eggs for research – using their remaining eggs for their own IVF. As a result of the donations from women in the North East, over 500 eggs have been used for research.

Now, new permissions have been granted so that women can donate altruistically and receive reimbursement for inconvenience and loss of earnings.

Professor Alison Murdoch, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at Newcastle University and Head of Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life (part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) says: “Many women have expressed an interest in helping because they have family or friends who have been affected by a mitochondrial disorder or because they are interested in helping the research. Until now we have not been able to recruit non-patient donors but that has now changed.

“After receiving counselling these women are able to donate eggs altruistically – and these donations will be vital in providing a source of eggs for the researchers to be able to take forward their work towards eliminating these currently incurable diseases.

“We’ve had amazing support from women in the North East who have shown great thoughtfulness and compassion taking part in this process and we expect and hope that this continues.”

Donated eggs will be used to progress pioneering work in mitochondrial transplant. This is when the nucleus is removed from the donor egg and replaced with the fertilised nucleus. This new fertilised egg contains the DNA of the father and mother, and the mitochondria from the donor.

Mitochondria are the batteries of the cells. In some people there is a fault in the mitochondria which can cause diseases and around one in 200 children are born each year with mutations which in most cases cause only mild forms of mitochondrial disease. However, around one in 6,500 children are born with severe mitochondrial diseases, which include muscular weakness, blindness, fatal heart failure, liver failure, learning disability and diabetes and can lead to death in early infancy.


Fact box:

  • Women who wish to donate eggs altruistically need to be under 35
  • Women need to live in the North East so that medical care can be provided
  • Donors will receive £500 compensation
  • Women who are having IVF treatment can continue to egg share for research and will have their treatment costs reduced by about £1,500, or to donate to another couple for a cost reduction.
  • To be contacted with more information:  0191 282 5000 or online at http://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=2722

VIDEO:a video explaining the importance of this work can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za6pTxcFdvg

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