Pregnant woman

New Fertility Hope for Older Couples

Meet Zain Rajani, the first baby to ever be born using Augment IVF. The treatment has great promise, but has also proven controversial.


The ways in which families are created is ever expanding. For many couples struggling to conceive, in vitro fertilization (IVF) has been the key to starting a family together. However for older couples, even IVF can be problematic, as older eggs are often an obstacle.

Augment IVF is a new procedure that harvests energy-producing mitochondria from younger cells lining the ovaries to give older eggs a boost. The rationale is that a successful embryo needs a lot of energy to complete all the tasks required to make a baby, and supplementing an egg’s mitochondria may rescue its quality. According to TCART Fertility Partners in Toronto, where Zain was conceived and the only clinic in North America offering Augment IVF, couples with multiple failed IVF treatments increase their odds of conception from 5-10% to 30-40%.

Meet Toronto baby Zain Rajani, who became the world’s first baby born using Augment IVF in April.

Meet Zain Rajani, conceived using Augment IVF; Video courtesy of Time
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Zain’s parents, Natasha and Omar Rajani, struggled with infertility for four years before hearing about this new procedure. They jumped at the chance to give it a try. Zain was conceived after just one round of IVF.

Learn more about the Augment IVF procedure
Animation courtesy of OvaScience

Augment IVF represents hope for many couples who want to conceive biological children. Since the mitochondria and the egg both come from the mother, Augment IVF steps away from the controversy surrounding the use of donor mitochondria, a procedure that was approved in the UK in February that will result in babies with genetic material from three different parents.

Although Augment IVF looks very promising, it is not without controversy. The effectiveness of Augment IVF has also not yet been well documented, as the number of successful pregnancies is still small, and there have been no formal clinical trials.

Canada approved Augment IVF as a cell therapy because the mitochondria are not manipulated and come directly from the mother; it has not yet been approved for clinical use in the United States, as the FDA is requiring new drug testing. The procedure is also so new that any unintended long term consequences that may arise are still not known. Perhaps the most controversial point is that this cell therapy may have unforeseen and lifelong consequences, and the people most highly affected would be the resulting children, who could not consent.

For now, there are several happy newly minted families that feel very lucky to have participated in a new procedure that may revolutionize reproductive medicine.

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Karyn Ho is a science animator and engineer who thrives at the interface between science, engineering, medicine, and art. She earned her MScBMC (biomedical communications) and PhD (chemical engineering and biomedical engineering) at the University of Toronto. Karyn is passionate about using cutting edge discoveries to create dynamic stories as a way of supporting innovation, collaboration, education, and informed decision making. By translating knowledge into narratives, her vision is to captivate people, spark their curiosity, and motivate them to share what they learned.