It’s now 40 years since the birth of the world’s first IVF baby, and the field of reproductive medicine has continued to revolutionise treatment options for people with fertility issues.
Dr Ryan Rose, a researcher and embryologist at Fertility SA, says the field of reproductive medicine has come a long way in a short period of time, and that research is continuing its quest to render infertility a thing of the past.
“In the last few years, the two research-based discoveries which have had the biggest impacts for helping people to have babies are: Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) and vitrification of sperm, eggs and embryos,” he said.
“ICSI has been important because it has allowed many men with severe male infertility to have their own children. And the ability to freeze a person’s reproductive potential has also transformed the options for having a healthy baby.”
Dr Rose says there are four major areas of current focus for the team of doctors and researchers at Fertility SA.
- Analysis of the bio-resource – Having treated thousands of people with fertility issues over many years, there is a wealth of medical information available to researchers. This data is now being retrospectively analysed for trends and areas of interest that may need further investigation.
- Improving the quality of eggs and sperm – While many researchers are focused on embryo selection, the Fertility SA team is also looking at the mechanisms in sperm and eggs, which predict quality and successful embryo creation.
- Improving outcomes for women with endometriosis – Women with endometriosis often experience difficulty with conception due to the condition. Research in this area is seeking to diagnose endometriosis better and provide improved fertility treatment outcomes.
- Improving IVF techniques – IVF remains one of the major treatment options for people with fertility issues, and the research in this area is looking at how the process can continue to be more effective. This includes research into the media which is used in the laboratory to grow embryos.
“It is a really exciting time to be a researcher in reproductive medicine,” Dr Rose said. “We are continuing to learn more about egg and sperm quality, how we can predict and diagnose fertility issues, and improving the effectiveness of fertility treatments.
“But the research we are all extremely excited about is how stem cells are transforming the way we create eggs and sperm in the future.
“Researchers have taken skin cells from mice, returned them to their stem cell state, and then produced both egg and sperm cells to be fertilised.
“The potential to do the same thing within the human body would allow people who’ve had cancer treatment or been born with no ovaries or sperm, to have their own biological children – this would be a huge advancement for our field.”
You can hear Dr Ryan Rose talk more about the latest research in reproductive medicine in Fertility SA’s ‘Time to talk’ podcast series. Please be aware that this podcast will play automatically when you click the link