Research Areas

Fertility Research Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

The science of reproductive medicine is constantly evolving. Many of the advances made in the field in recent years would have been considered impossible even half a decade ago. This progress is due in large part to the mapping of the human genome, which has and will continue to have, an incalculable impact on science and medicine. With emerging technologies, molecular analysis and diagnosis is now possible, affording us a clearer understanding of the genetics of the egg and the embryo, as well as the genetic cause of disease. By translating this data into innovative testing and treatments, we are now able to solve problems in the laboratory. Personalized medicine is fueling a significant new paradigm shift in reproductive science.

Understanding the conditions necessary for optimal embryogenic processes in the laboratory is a main focus of our research. Customization of the culture environment has a profound effect on the viability of eggs and embryos, which in turn, increases the success of IVF practice. And because genetic health is determined at the embryonic stage, this work has an inestimable impact on the health of children born through the use of assisted reproductive technology.

[Following this will be: The Research Institute at Work Today: Oocyte Cryopreservation Technology The Mission at Its Core: Egg Freezing and Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients (with optional page on more in-depth egg freezing information) The Future of Cryobiology]

The Research Institute at Work Today

Our current emphasis in fertility preservation at LIFE Research includes both oocyte and embryo freezing. While egg freezing technology is still classified as an experimental technique by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), we are encouraged by recent success rates. Worldwide, over 500 babies have been born from frozen eggs, with approximately ten percent of those born in the United States attributable to patients in our private clinical practice. Overall rates of miscarriage, birth defects and chromosomal defects for babies born from frozen eggs are no higher than the rates seen with natural pregnancies in the general population.

The Future of Fertility Preservation

Beyond egg and embryo freezing, we are continuing our work in the area of ovarian cortex preservation and in vitro maturation (IVM) of early-stage oocytes. To date, four births have been reported using transplanted, cryopreserved ovarian cortices. The success we have seen with ovarian cortex cryopreservation followed by transplantation or IVM is particularly encouraging for women diagnosed with cancer, as IVM does not require lengthy ovarian stimulation, and women need not postpone cancer treatment unnecessarily.

As we look forward, we anticipate an expansion into more advanced technologies involving various modalities for egg reconstruction. This includes nuclear transfer, which combines components of a younger, healthier egg with the non-nuclear genetic material from an older egg. Ovarian and follicle engineering are additional technologies that may provide revolutionary reproductive options for women.

Improving the Science of Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients

LIFE is committed to advancing the science and application of fertility preservation technology for the tens of thousands of reproductive-aged women diagnosed with cancer each year. Because chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause infertility by damaging the ovaries and the eggs, the ability to freeze eggs—and in some cases, ovarian tissue—allows women to complete cancer treatment and still have the option of a future pregnancy.

The possibility also exists of utilizing these technologies for children who are diagnosed with cancer and leukemia. Doctors in Israel recently published results of their successful extraction of eggs from girls and young women, aged five to twenty. The eggs were matured in the laboratory and frozen, providing these patients the possibility of future fertility. These findings represent a new era in fertility preservation research to benefit children with cancer.

Embryo ICU™

The Embryo ICU is a critical component of our research methodology. It is here that we monitor and customize the conditions under which embryos develop in order to maximize their survival and promote optimal development. In the general practice of IVF today, every embryo is grown under the same conditions, including identical culture media (salts, growth factors, sugars and proteins). This practice, while moderately successful, still results in the loss of 70%-80% of embryos by the fifth day of development.

In our research, we employ methods to examine an embryo’s secretions in order to detect changes in health. Then, based on this analysis, we seek ways to supplement the culture medium with the necessary molecules specific to that embryo. This principle of individualized care is central to our work at LIFE Research. Optimizing the genetic health of the egg and the embryo directly increases the chance of successful IVF and positively impacts the health of children born through assisted reproductive technology. We look forward to broadening the reach of our efforts and developing more advanced technologies for human health.