Adding acid to embryos boosts IVF outcomes by a third, Israeli study shows

Hyaluronic acid already considered beneficial, but new analysis crunches data from thousands of women to quantify effect; those facing most uphill struggle get best benefits

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Illustrative image: a gynecologist showing a patient an ultrasound of her fetus. (megaflopp via iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image: a gynecologist showing a patient an ultrasound of her fetus. (megaflopp via iStock by Getty Images)

Doctors can boost by a third success rates for women using their own eggs in IVF if they expose embryos to a naturally occurring acid, Israeli researchers have concluded.

Hyaluronic acid, which is found in the human body and can be made synthetically, is believed to help the embryo to stick to the wall of uterus.

Some IVF clinics use it as a so-called treatment add-on, meaning something that can increase the chances of a successful cycle — but only a minority of institutions.

A team of scholars at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot and Hebrew University decided to quantify the usefulness of the acid by analyzing data that has been gathered in a range of studies by research teams across the world.

They published their findings, based on analysis of 4,686 women’s records, in the peer-reviewed journal Human Reproduction.

“We found that when women use their own eggs, exposing to hyaluronic acid for ten minutes before placing it in the uterus increased the likelihood of a cycle resulting in a birth by 32% to 39%,” Dr. Devorah Heymann, the Kaplan Hospital obstetrician-gynecologist who led the study, told The Times of Israel.

Dr. Devorah Heymann, obstetrician-gynecologist at Kaplan Hospital. (courtesy of Dr. Devorah Heymann)

Her team was especially encouraged when it cross-referenced data on patient profiles and IVF outcomes, and found that hyaluronic acid appears to give the most help to the women who face the most uphill battle to get pregnant.

It was least helpful to the women whose chances of success were rated highest by doctors, based on age, quality of eggs and other factors — and had the most significant effect on the chances of women who had a pessimistic prognosis.

Women who used donor eggs — which tend to be high quality as donors are recruited for reliable eggs — didn’t derive any notable benefit from hyaluronic acid, and weren’t included in the statistics of the study.

“It’s important and encouraging to find this is something that gives specifically the women with the lowest chance of pregnancy the biggest increase in chances of achieving the dream of having a baby,” said Heymann. “I hope that as a result of this study we see more clinics start to use hyaluronic acid, as the indication here is that it can help patients a lot.”

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