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Exposing IVF errors key to improving standard of care, say embryologists

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Exposing IVF errors could be key to improving the standard of care, embryologists have said, after a California couple sued their fertility clinic over an embryo carrying a rare cancer gene.

Talking openly about IVF mix-ups could encourage increased regulation and make the treatment “safer”, experts have told Femtech World.

Jason and Melissa Diaz sued HRC Fertility, saying it allegedly implanted an embryo carrying a rare gene that causes deadly stomach cancer and then falsified records to cover up its mistake.

The couple said their son, now a year old, will require total stomach removal surgery as a young adult to prevent or treat the cancer.

Okan Atilan, senior clinical embryologist at Sidra Medicine hospital in Qatar, says while this type of errors are rare, IVF mix-ups can happen.

“It is important for such events to be talked about because we have the obligation to strive for even safer practices and constantly look for ways of improvement,” he explains.

“We need to identify where our precautionary systems may fail, so we can enhance them and take lessons from such reported cases.

“Clinics have the responsibility to be completely transparent to their patients about any non-conformance events and either prevent such mistakes from happening or take immediate action when a mistake is identified.”

A study published in 2020 found that between 2009 and 2019, out of approximately 2.5 million IVF procedures in the US, 133 errors happened that resulted in lawsuits.

However, Cynthia Hudson, embryologist and VP of clinical strategy at TMRW Life Sciences, says there is no US federal requirement for reporting errors and many cases are never brought to light.

“Cases are settled out of court and none of these are being systematically captured.

“IVF remains a viable option, but the number of errors quoted vs the number of cycles performed is low.

“There is no legal mandate for clinics to ensure systems are in place to provide an immutable audit trail for the entire specimen history and there is no federal requirement that clinics must report errors,” she continues.

“The lack of chain of custody – linking results to specimens – is exactly the reason this happened. Humans are fallible. Well meaning, but fallible.

“Ensuring complete chain of custody at the specimen level, with an immutable audit trail, is essential.”

Dr Cesar Diaz Garcia, medical director at IVI London, says in many fields, including IVF, human error is nearly always the culprit behind such incidents.

“During IVF, mix-ups can happen due to a dish containing gametes being incorrectly labelled, or laboratory technicians not following protocol.

“But it’s important to bear in mind that these cases are extremely rare because today, the tracking of gametes is mainly electronic.”

One possible path forward would be to develop international guidelines for IVF treatments to ensure they remain safe, ethical and effective and have universal consistency and transparency, says Atilan.

“Formation of local regulatory bodies should also be a priority,” he adds.

“These can be responsible for issuing licenses to clinics that provide fertility treatments as well as overseeing and regulating every aspect of fertility treatments and the use of gametes and embryos in research, providing statistics on success rates, investigating any reported violations and taking disciplinary action, as necessary.”

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Researchers to investigate role gut bacteria plays in breast cancer

The project aims to provide insights into the function of gut bacteria in breast cancer

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Researchers in the UK are to investigate the function of gut bacteria in breast cancer and how it could be used to fight against the disease.

Bacteria living in our gut can affect our immune system and previous research in other cancers has shown a connection between healthier gut bacteria and better overall outcomes for patients.

Cancerous cells can spread in many different ways, including by manipulating the immune system to prevent being killed. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it becomes incurable.

Breast Cancer Now has awarded £249,065 to Dr Stephen Robinson at the Quadram Institute, in Norwich Research Park, to study the composition and function of the gut bacteria in oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer.

Up to 80 per cent of women with the disease are diagnosed with ER-positive breast cancer, making it the most common type of breast cancer.

Stool samples will be taken from women who have recently been diagnosed with ER-positive breast cancer and are yet to begin treatment.

Further samples will then be taken from the same women at various stages during and after treatment to see how gut bacteria changes during the course of the disease.

The team will compare samples from people who respond well to treatment to people who do not, to analyse any differences in their gut bacteria and see if it’s possible to predict the outcome of treatment based on this information.

Using mice, the researchers will also investigate how gut bacteria influence the immune system. The team will test specific bacteria species that have been linked with better treatment outcomes alongside bacteria linked with poorer outcomes, to see how the bacteria affect the progression of breast cancer.

“Evidence shows that certain bacteria living in our gut can help slow the growth and spread of cancers, including breast cancer,” said Dr Stephen Robinson from the Quadram Institute.

“These findings are particularly important given that breast cancer treatment may disturb normal gut bacteria.

“We are looking into how exactly the bacteria help our bodies prevent cancer from progressing, and whether standard treatments are affecting this.”

Dr Simon Vincent, Breast Cancer Now’s director of research, support and influencing, said: “This project will provide crucial insights into the role gut bacteria play in breast cancer.

“It could help us develop new approaches to treatment that use gut bacteria to activate the immune system and reduce the chance of breast cancer spreading and becoming incurable.”

He added: “With around 11,500 women tragically dying from breast cancer each year in the UK, we urgently need to find new ways to prevent the disease spreading, and treat it effectively when it does.”

Kerry’s story

Kerry Blake, 34, from Hertfordshire found a small lump in her left breast a month before her wedding.

“A few days before the wedding I felt a pain in my breast so booked a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out,” Kerry said.

“During the examination, the doctor confirmed I had a small pea-sized lump and referred me to the breast clinic.”

After an ultrasound, mammogram and needle biopsy, Kerry was told she had grade 2, ER-positive breast cancer.

“The doctor sat down next to me to give me the results. I burst into tears and was trying hard to listen and make sense of what he was saying but all I could think was I’m 28, how can I have breast cancer?”

In the following months, Kerry had CT scans, MRI scans, fertility appointments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by a single mastectomy. She also had a tumour in her left breast removed.

It’s now been five years since Kerry’s diagnosis, and she believes it’s due to advances in research that’s she’s living a full and active life today.

“Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying, but thanks to research, I’m here today,” she said.

“For me and countless others, breast cancer research isn’t just about finding a cure; it’s about finding kinder, more effective treatments and inspiring hope. With every research breakthrough, we’re closer to a world where no more lives are lost to this terrible disease.”

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London tech start-up TaraCares launches revolutionary AI co-pilot MIMI for personalised hormone health

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Jyoti Sharma at HR Technologies UK Conference in London, April 2024 / MIMOSA was Top 4 Most Innovative HR Tech StartUps
In a groundbreaking move set to transform personal health management, the London-based tech start-up TaraCares has unveiled MIMI (Menopause Information and Management Interface), an advanced AI co-pilot designed to personalise science for users of its B2B2C hormone health and employee wellbeing platform MIMOSA. 

Leveraging cutting-edge responsible AI and a deep understanding of human health, MIMI aims to become an indispensable tool for women and female individuals of all ages seeking to optimise their hormonal wellbeing and health span, from puberty  to post-menopause.

In Beta since 2023, the development of MIMI was funded by an NIHR R&D grant awarded to TaraCares and strategic angel investors from Big Tech and Big 4 Consulting firms. 

MIMI has been successfully tested by individuals and clinicians in the UK, US and India including British Menopause Society (BMS) certified menopause specialists.

“MIMI gives you the freedom, safety and scientific evidence at your fingertips,” said Lisa Watson, advanced specialist nurse and BMS Menopause Specialist at Watson Health Menopause Clinic.

Dr Vikram Talaulikar, reproductive specialist at UCLH, trainer and BMS certified menopause specialist added: “Out of the comparable apps I have seen, MIMOSA stands out as comprehensive, inclusive and easy to use. 

“I am astonished at the accuracy of MIMI. It is first-class and better than some of the clinicians I know!”

MIMI stands out by its ability to meticulously study and monitor user behaviour and symptoms across 29 key determinants of female hormonal health transition. This sophisticated level of monitoring allows MIMI to deliver tailored recommendations and up-to-date research, empowering users with insights that are specifically relevant to their unique health profiles.

MIMI was inspired by founder Jyoti Sharma’s conversations with female C-suite leaders at UNLEASH World in Paris where she discovered that women running some of the largest and successful businesses in the world were being ill-informed by sponsored social media posts, antiquated diagnostic tools as they resort to dwarfed medical expertise and over the counter menopause test kits against RCOG recommendations.

“We are thrilled to introduce MIMI to our corporate customers,” said Sharma, founder and CEO of TaraCares. 

“Our mission is to bridge the gap between complex scientific knowledge and everyday health management. MIMI does just that by providing personalised, actionable insights that can make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The development of MIMI is a significant leap forward in the field of responsible AI. 

Unlike generic health apps, MIMI’s algorithms are designed to prioritise user privacy and data security while delivering highly specific health recommendations. The system continuously learns from the data it collects, improving its accuracy and relevance over time. 

Users interact with MIMI through an intuitive interface on MIMOSA that makes complex scientific information easily understandable. The AI tracks various health indicators, such as sleep patterns, stress levels, physical activity, diet, and more. 

By analysing these factors, MIMI identifies trends and potential issues before they become serious problems, allowing users to take proactive steps toward better health.

MIMI’s personalised approach is particularly valuable for managing hormonal health, a crucial aspect often overlooked by traditional health monitoring systems. 

The 29 determinants that MIMI monitors include hormone levels, menstrual cycles, mood fluctuations, and other critical markers. This comprehensive approach ensures that users receive a holistic view of their health, backed by the latest scientific research.

Early adopters of MIMI have already reported significant benefits, praising the AI for its precision and user-friendly design. Testimonials highlight how MIMI’s insights have led to improved lifestyle choices, better management of hormonal imbalances, and a deeper understanding of personal health.

The launch of MIMI marks a significant milestone in the journey towards personalised healthcare. 

As the tech start-up continues to refine and expand its capabilities, MIMI is set to become an essential tool for anyone looking to take control of their health with the help of advanced, responsible AI technology.

For more information about MIMI and how it can help you personalise your health journey, visit TaraCares’ official website here.

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US health platform raises US$10m to advance ‘patient-centred’ care

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The US health platform Amino Health has raised US$10m in funding to build “personalised” care journeys.

More and more employers in the US are faced with rising healthcare costs, complex benefit plans and low utilisation of specialised solution providers. Meanwhile employees struggle to know what is covered by their health insurance, and how to access programmes available to them.

Amino aims to connect people with cost-effective providers and benefits programmes across the healthcare ecosystem.

The company’s care navigation platform seeks to “simplify” healthcare by recommending healthcare providers based on objective clinical data.

The funding round, led by Transformation Capital, is hoped to accelerate Amino’s AI product roadmap to build “personalised” patient care journeys.

“This investment underscores the confidence placed in our vision to harness the power of AI to revolutionise healthcare,” said John Asalone, Amino’s CEO.

“With this infusion of capital, we are poised to strengthen our AI capabilities, expand our team, and drive innovation that will shape the future of patient-centred care.”

Amino’s AI investments, Asalone said, will further improve the user experience by offering care recommendations based on a user’s unique care journey.

Amino’s product and clinical teams have already seen the benefits of using AI to generate thousands of new care topics, including expanded primary care, women’s health and LGBTQ+ health, he added.

Mike Dixon, managing partner at Transformation Capital, said: “We believe Amino Health is poised to make a transformative impact in the healthcare landscape through its innovative AI-driven approach to care navigation.

“We are excited to further invest in Amino Health, and accelerate their journey to revolutionise healthcare delivery and drive meaningful improvements in cost savings and member engagement.”

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