"Miracle" baby born using breakthrough IVF treatment

May 8, 2015 12:42 PM by CBS News

A breakthrough in vitro fertilization procedure is giving hope to those struggling to get pregnant. One couple is sharing their story of the first baby in the world born using the new technique, CBS News' Jericka Duncan reports.

It's the subject of a story in the latest issue of Time magazine, "The Incredible, Surprising, Controversial New Way to Make a Baby."

For four years, Natasha and Omar Rajani say they had been trying to have a child. Traditional IVF claims to be between 30 to 40 percent effective, but this new procedure is showing promising results.

The new parents call baby Zain a miracle.

"Zain's just a blessing," Omar said. "She went through so much in order to produce this bundle of joy."

"It's an incredible feeling; we never thought we'd be able to experience this," Natasha said.

Natasha and Omar said they had been trying to conceive for years.

"Month after month after finding out that we weren't pregnant I knew that it just was not the time for us to become pregnant and so I just really stayed positive," Natasha said.

The couple's fertility doctor, Dr. Marjorie Dixon, recommended the Toronto couple try IVF, but traditional methods didn't work.

"For those couples, particularly women who have poor egg health, there are no real alternatives," fertility Dr. Marjorie Dixon said.

Dixon then suggested the Rajanis try Augment IVF, a treatment that hit the market in 2014 using a woman's own cells.

"We previously weren't able to grow precursor egg cells," Dixon said. "I had the opportunity to offer her this potential for renewed hope."

Natasha said she called her husband in tears saying they had won the lottery.

"I think the proof is in the pudding, and we ended up with this little guy, so definitely I feel like we won the jackpot," Omar said.

Here's how the science works: Mitochondria, the batteries that fuel cell growth, are taken from immature egg cells found within the lining of a woman's own ovaries. Those mitochondria are combined with sperm and added to a woman's mature egg, recharging the egg's existing batteries to fuel embryo growth.

"I think this is an exciting breakthrough but one that should be taken with caution," said Dr. Alan Copperman, director of infertility at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.

He said the procedure isn't necessarily the fix for those struggling to conceive.

"The major reason that an embryo doesn't stick and become a healthy pregnancy is because it doesn't have the right amount of DNA. So even with all the energy in the world, you're not necessarily going to take an unhealthy embryo and turn it into a healthy one," Copperman said.

Augment is not available in the U.S. The FDA says it is a form of gene therapy and needs additional tests before it is deemed safe for patients.

Augment is also considered controversial because it involves the use of relatively unstudied cells for a procedure modifying an egg.

"Science is involved, but it's all within us," Omar said. "It's still Natasha's body and my body and our body parts and our chemistry and everything that's really making the baby."

Time magazine medical reporter Alice Park said some researchers are still hesitant.

"These stem cells are so new that some researchers are still a little nervous about what they can do and what they might do in the body," she said. "These babies like Zain will obviously continue to be studied."

The Rajanis aren't concerned, and Zain is a healthy baby. They plan on having another child using the same method.

"We do actually have two embryos that are frozen, and hopefully little Zain will have a sister or brother one day," Natasha said.

Doctors said the cost of Augment IVF is double that of regular IVF and could cost at least $20,000. It's still too early to tell just how successful this new procedure will be in the future and what effects, if any, it has on children down the road.

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