Doctors say egg bank may be five to ten years away

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2004, 12:00am

Chinese University team reveals a boy is the first birth from new procedure

An egg bank may be established in five to ten years in Hong Kong, according to doctors who yesterday announced the birth of Hong Kong's first baby conceived from a thawed frozen egg.

The Chinese University, which has been working on freezing human eggs since 1999, yesterday said the technology was feasible after a baby was born in April, conceived from a frozen egg which was later thawed.

Assistant Professor Tony Chiu Tak-yu said establishing an egg bank was technically possible.

But he also said there were many hurdles to be overcome before one could be set up. These included legal, religious and moral issues relating to egg donation and the problem of immature technology for freezing eggs.

Cheung Lai Ping, an associate professor at the university, said: 'Theoretically we can do this [egg freezing] on every woman, but we don't encourage that.'

The doctors said that the process of egg collection was dangerous because of the need to take hormones to produce more eggs.

The hormones might have side effects and unusually high levels increased the possibility of developing ovarian cancer, they said.

The doctors added that surgery to remove the eggs and put the embryo back in the ovary was not '100 per cent safe' and implants resulted in pregnancy in just 12.5 per cent of cases.

Dr Cheung said she expected an egg bank could be established in five to ten years, by which time freezing technology might have sufficiently improved.

She also said that a test-tube baby was preferred to a baby produced from frozen sperm and eggs.

Dr Cheung said the chromosomes in an egg might change while the egg was thawed and the embryo might die, or the baby might have genetic problems.

She stressed that the baby conceived from a frozen egg and sperm remained healthy.

The Chinese University said it was the first report of a live birth from the combination of three technologies in Hong Kong: frozen-thawed egg, frozen-thawed sperm and blastocyst transfer.

Blastocyst transfer is a process in which thawed sperm is inserted into a thawed egg.

The baby's mother is a 37-year-old woman who could not become pregnant through natural methods. She and her husband decided to have a test-tube baby in March 2003, but he failed to produce a sperm sample on the day of egg collection.

The couple chose to freeze the 23 eggs collected. Three months later the husband produced a semen sample, which was then also frozen.

Only one egg was successfully fertilised, developed into an embryo and transferred back to the woman's uterus. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy weighing 3.14kg.