Invocell, a new version of IVF to treat infertility

27 Oct 2022 09:07am
Image for illustrative purposes only - BERNAMA
Image for illustrative purposes only - BERNAMA
KUALA LUMPUR - After nearly eight years of trying to conceive, a staff nurse at Hospital Angkatan Tentera (HAT) Tuanku Mizan, Shuhada Abdul Karim, 34, and her husband Mohd Niazmin Omar Ali, 35, are finally welcoming a new addition to their family.

Thanks to Invocell, a new version of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) from the United States to treat infertility, Shuhada is now 35 weeks’ pregnant.

Invocell is an intravaginal culture (IVC) system which uses a female body as a natural incubator to develop into embryos.

After several failed fertility treatment cycles, including the Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) procedure at a local government hospital, Shuhada was referred to Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM) Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) for an IVF treatment last February.

(IUI is a procedure for treating infertility. Sperm that have been washed and concentrated are placed directly in the uterus around the time the ovary releases one or more eggs to be fertilised).

"I have undergone IUI treatment twice but failed. Prior to this, I had an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that happens outside of the uterus) a year after marriage, but was later referred to HCTM for IVF treatment upon recommendation from a gynaecologist at HAT Tuanku Mizan.

"At that time, the doctor had suggested that I tried INVOcell and without giving much thought, my husband and I immediately agreed to undergo the treatment despite being told that it is the latest treatment offered at HCTM.

‘Alhamdulillah (praise to Allah), a month after receiving the treatment for the first time, I became pregnant and is due on Nov 24,” she told Bernama recently.

Sharing her Invocell treatment experience, Shuhada said the doctor inserted hormonal fluids to facilitate the ovulation process and mature the eggs before absorbing the matured eggs on the 20th day after menstruation.
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"The eggs and sperm are placed inside the Invocell device for fertilisation and early embryonic development. The cylinder is then inserted into the vagina for five days.

"For five days, I was on medical leave as while Invocell was inside the womb, I was advised by the doctor to have enough rest to stabilise the embryo,” she added.

INVOcell treatment for infertility is the first in Malaysia and currently available at HCTM's Advanced Reproductive Centre (ARC).

HCTM also received recognition from the Malaysia Book of Records as the first hospital in Malaysia to have successfully applied the INVOcell method on its patients.

Led by ARC head, Associate Professor Dr Abdul Kadir Abdul Rahim and Reproductive Specialist Associate Professor Dr Mohamad Faizal Mohamad, Invocell is roughly 30 per cent cheaper than traditional IVF as it does not require lab works.

According to Dr Abdul Kadir, the treatment is a gentler alternative to conventional IVF which creates accessible, affordable and personal fertility experience by shifting the entire process close to the patient.

"Unlike other IVF methods that develop the embryo in a lab, Invocell uses a woman’s own body as an incubator during fertilisation and early embryo development.

"As a lower cost option to traditional IVF, Invocell expands access to patients who could not afford the traditional method or would prefer a more natural choice which is more appropriate from the cultural and religious aspects,” he said.

He added the technology, which was introduced about 20 years ago, was only commercialised in the United States in 2015, noting that it was promoted as an affordable fertility treatment option in the US and Malaysia.

"At ARC, we try to set a treatment cost package for the entire Invocell vaginal tube which costs around RM7,000 to RM8,500 while treatment cost for the conventional IVF ranges from RM12,000 to RM13,000," he said.

Once the patient has agreed to receive the treatment, the doctor will prescribe the medication to stimulate egg production.

Invocell uses a special culture device, which is about 4cm tall and 3.5cm wide, that holds the egg and sperm or fertilised embryo as it incubates inside the patient's body.

"The use of tubes containing the patient's oocytes (female germ cell in the process of development) and sperm will be inserted into the vagina. The tubes eliminate the need for incubators in the lab because they serve as natural incubators.

"Once incubation is completed, the embryo is transferred to the patient's uterus for gestation," he said.

Dr Abdul Kadir, who is also obstetrician-gynaecology specialist in ARC, said after five days, this tube will be removed from the vagina.

"The embryo will be screened to be put back into the uterus. The rest (embryos) will be stored frozen,” he said.

He said to date, four out of 10 patients on Invocell treatment have conceived since its introduction at HCTM in February this year,” he added.

HCTM and SNS Murni Sdn Bhd, a medical and health consultancy services company, are working together to undertake a study and evaluation on the suitability of the Invocell device for patients.

"HCTM, which serves as the pioneer project for Invocell treatment, began the research since July 2021 and SNS Murni Sdn Bhd agreed to collaborate with us in bringing the device from the United States.

"We hope that the treatment will be the alternative for infertility patients who can't afford conventional IVF treatment," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mohamad Faizal shared the treatment has several benefits compared to other IVF methods.

"A typical IVF patient might come to the clinic or hospital for more ultrasound and more blood work because they’re on a lot of medications and you have to make sure you’re monitoring the medication accordingly.

"But with Invocell, the patients are on fewer medications and they (usually) require only two clinical visits and it is less painful,” he said.

He also added the treatment brings more of the fertility treatment process closer to the patients, which means the fertilisation and incubation happen within their body.

"The patients also can experience motherhood as their vagina functions as incubator for the embryo, bringing them closer to their baby," he said.

Invo Bioscience, Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Steve Sum in a statement said the treatment will officially be commercialised at HCTM following the successful presentation of data at Obstetrical and Gynecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) and supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

"HCTM will start offering Invocell treatment, both in their public and private sectors with an expectation to complete a number of cycles by the end of 2022.

"We are also working with partners in Malaysia to open up an INVO centre in their existing practice as we strive to bring our innovative advanced fertility treatment to the people of Malaysia," he said.

Based in Sarasota, Florida, US, Invo Bioscience, Inc. is a medical device company focussed on commercialising INVOcell, an effective and affordable treatment for patients diagnosed with infertility. - BERNAMA