Published: March 1, 2015

Enabling Pregnancy

A low-cost infertility treatment based on technology developed at CU-Boulder is expected to become available in Africa in 2015.

CU-Boulder biologist Jonathan Van Blerkom developed the pocket-size in vitro fertilization (IVF) technology to help couples in poor nations.

The high cost of standard IVF methods — more than $10,000 per treatment cycle in the United States — means few couples in the developing world have access to assisted reproduction.

Van Blerkom is working with The Walking Egg, a Belgian nonprofit, to spread the technology beyond Belgium, where an initial clinical trial led to 17 healthy births.

Aided by government and private subsidies and by the low production cost of the technology, the group expects to provide IVF in some African countries for as little as $125 per attempt, of which patients would pay a small portion, Van Blerkom says.

The Walking Egg project won a 2014 “Best of What’s New Award” from Popular Science magazine.

Read more about The Walking Egg.

Heard Around Campus

“Shift work goes against our fundamental biology.”

— Kenneth Wright, director of CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, on his recent research finding that working the night shift can increase a person’s risk of obesity.

Varieties of Pain

The biology of physical and social pain may be more distinct than scientists thought.

A CU-led research team analyzed brain scans of subjects alternately experiencing psychological pain (social rejection) and physical pain (from heat). Using multivariate pattern analysis, the scientists found that the two types of pain travel different neural circuits.

The new research, published in Nature Communications, provides a more nuanced understanding of pain biology than previous studies, which established basic similarities between physical and social pain.

“If we find that social pain is more similar to sadness or depression in the brain than [to] physical pain, that could affect treatment options,” says CU-Boulder graduate student Choong-Wan Woo, who led the research.

Read more about social pain.