Zain Rajani, born in Toronto in April of this year, would not be here if we had not learned new ways to fight. Zain’s mother Natasha had been through several rounds of fertility drugs, insemination procedures, and traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF), but still failed to have a baby. That’s when Natasha and her husband Omar became aware of a new fertility treatment called the AUGMENT treatment.

The AUGMENT treatment is an evolution of traditional IVF in which a woman’s egg cells are recharged before fertilization. As women age, and for other reasons, their eggs become less fertile due to a slow degeneration or lack of the mitochondria in the cells. Mitochondria are essentially the power plants or batteries of the cell, providing the energy required to split and recombine chromosomes during fertilization and then to develop a fertilized egg into a viable embryo.

With the AUGMENT treatment, mitochondria are taken from egg precursor cells within a woman’s outer ovarian lining and then used to restore the needed energy to her mature eggs. “The AUGMENT treatment is used in conjunction with IVF to supplement mitochondria to increase the energy of poor quality eggs,” explains Dr. Marjorie Dixon, Natasha’s fertility specialist and Co-Founder of First Steps Fertility in Toronto. “When women have poor quality eggs, they have relatively few options other than using an egg donor. For some women that is acceptable, for others it is not.”

Scientific breakthrough

Before 2004, however, scientists were not even aware of the existence of egg precursor cells. “The discovery was completely unplanned,” says Dr. Jon Tilly of Northeastern University, who led the team responsible for the breakthrough at Harvard. “Most major scientific discoveries are made through serendipity rather than planning.”

"Before 2004, however, scientists were not even aware of the existence of egg precursor cells."

When Natasha first heard of the treatment, she was immediately on board. “When Dr. Dixon brought up the AUGMENT treatment and gave me some details,” she says, “I immediately called my husband and said ‘We have to do this.’” Natasha was one of the first patients to undergo the AUGMENT treatment.

Dr. Dixon says that the results were immediately apparent. “Her embryos were really night and day after AUGMENT treatment. It was almost hard to believe that they were from the same person.” One of those embryos was implanted in Natasha’s womb and the others were frozen in case she and Omar decided to have more children in the future.

Canada leading the way

Nine months later, Zain was born, the picture of health. He was the very first baby born worldwide as a result of the AUGMENT treatment. Natasha and Omar are humble in their gratitude. “We know people our parents’ age who couldn’t have children,” Natasha says. “And now that’s something that fewer and fewer people have to deal with anymore, because there are options. And every year the technology just keeps getting better. That so many more people can experience the sheer joy of having a child, it just makes me so thankful.”

And many more parents are, and will be, experiencing that miracle of joy. Babies have now been born thanks to the AUGMENT treatment in every region where the treatment is available.