A Toronto baby is the first in the world to be conceived by a new in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment that re-energizes a woman's eggs using mitochondria from her own egg precursor cells.
Zain Rajani, the picture of health, was born at five pounds four ounces just under a month ago.
His parents, Natasha and Omar Rajani, had spent four years trying everything to conceive a child — fertility drugs, time-intensive treatments and traditional IVF — but nothing worked.
And then their doctor recommended Augment IVF.
"She basically told us, described what it entailed and to be honest, there wasn't anything to think about," said Natasha Rajani.
"I remember calling Omar and telling him — I was in tears — and I told him, 'I think we just won the lottery.' That there's this new procedure and we've been chosen for it," she said.
They went to TCART Fertility Partners in Toronto, the only clinic in North America offering the treatment.
Replacing the 'batteries' in eggs
Dr. Robert Casper, the clinic's medical director, said his team treats women who have already gone through IVF treatment and have either failed multiple times to get pregnant or have poor embryo development.
"We believe it's an egg energy issue," he said.
What the Augment IVF procedure does, then, is extract the mitochondria of cells that line the surface of a mother's ovaries, which are egg precursor cells (or yet-to-be-developed eggs), and add them to the mother's older eggs to re-energize them. Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of a cell.
"So what we're actually doing is sort of replacing the batteries in the eggs to give them a boost of energy to get to the day 5 stage or the blastocyst stage, where the embryo can implant," said Casper.
The procedure also involves a laparoscopy, minor abdominal surgery to get a piece of the surface of the ovary in order to get the egg precursor cells.
Since he started performing the treatment a year ago, eight women — all under 40 — have gotten pregnant and are due in the near future. He said he is unsure if the Augment IVF treatment would be effective for women over 40.
Other fertility experts say more studies need to be done in order to know for sure if the treatment is effective.
But for Zain's proud parents, there is no doubt.
"The symbol of hope is Zain," said Natasha Rajani. "There's light at the end of the tunnel. And this is our light."