A new medical start-up called Darwin Life aims to utilize a new treatment for infertility, through what some would consider controversial means. Infertility presents challenges for those who wish to start families but for biological or medical reasons or because of advanced age, are not able to do so.
The technology employed in the procedure uses a technique called nuclear spindle transfer, where a healthy egg is taken from a younger donor, and then implanted with the infertile woman’s DNA. After the process is done, the egg now carries the DNA of the infertile woman, making it possible for her to have children. The original purpose of this technology was to remove harmful diseases that could be passed on to a baby in the womb, but Dr. John Zhang, the founder of Darwin Life, is confident in this technique. Zhang has even gone so far as to call it a cure for infertility.
Nuclear spindle transfer is currently not allowed to be performed in the U.S. Many may also be reluctant to use nuclear spindle transfer because it is, for the time being, very much untested. Zhang, who originally pioneered the technology, has had only one previous success using it. However, Darwin Life still produces and works with the embryos inside the U.S., but conducts the procedure overseas. For instance, Darwin Life has set up shop in the United Kingdom. Genetic treatments and procedures are no stranger to controversy in the U.S.; the CRISPR technique has also faced its fair share of barriers.
Darwin Life is mainly offering nuclear spindle transfer treatments to women in their mid to late 40s. As for the cost, the company is charging $100,000 for the procedure. The high cost factor, among other issues, may limit how many couples pursue this path.
There are also concerns about how experimental nuclear spindle transfer is, and not knowing what else could happen as a result of the procedure. No information on their site specifically mentions any severe side effects that go along with the process, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. With the doubts and mysteries surrounding the new technology, Darwin Life may not be allowed to perform nuclear spindle transfer in the U.S. anytime soon. However, for those couples who are willing to pay, this procedure could one day pave the way for more safe fertility treatments.