Fertility expert awarded for innovating IVF procedure

Thursday, 31 August 2006

University of Adelaide fertility researcher Dr Robert Gilchrist has won a prestigious European-based science award for research into alternative, less costly and more efficient fertility treatment than current In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) procedures.

Dr Gilchrist, Head of the Oocyte Biology Group at the University's Research Centre for Reproductive Health, won the Established Scientist Award at the annual European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) conference for his research into isolating egg-secreted growth factors and developing an efficient oocyte (egg) In Vitro Maturation (IVM) process.

The IVM processes examined by the team headed by Dr Gilchrist could become an alternative fertility treatment to the current IVF technique. IVM eliminates the need for hormone injections, allowing for less expensive, less invasive and more efficient assisted reproduction.

Dr Gilchrist says, "This research finding is very significant in the improvement of the current IVF processes. This IVM innovation allows for the development of more, high quality eggs and embryos, without the need for hormone injections. The other significant impact as a result of this finding will be in the agricultural sector where assisted reproductive procedures are used for selective breeding."

The IVM technique involves collecting immature eggs from the ovary, making it unnecessary to mature the eggs prior to collection and insemination using the hormone injections currently used with IVF. This could potentially transform the IVF technique by decreasing the expense of the treatment and allow eligibility to women previously unable to use hormone therapy, such as women with ovarian cysts.

IVM is not a new concept but previous success rates were low. The new IVM technique developed by Dr Gilchrist's team allows for the collection of an unmatured egg from the ovary, supplementing the egg with its own growth proteins, to mature better quality eggs and embryos.

Dr Gilchrist's team has discovered and isolated the secreted growth proteins and refined the technique in maturing the egg in the solution containing the discovered GDF9 and BMP15 growth development proteins.

The preliminary research indicated that naturally egg-secreted growth factor proteins stimulate the eggs to mature very successfully outside of the ovary. The team is keen to transfer the successful results of animal models to the human field.

"The aim of this work was to investigate the effect of both naturally derived and synthetically produced egg-secreted factors during IVM on subsequent embryo development. The results are exciting as treating the oocyte and its support cells with the growth proteins not only increased embryo development but it also increased embryo quality," Dr Gilchrist says

This innovative IVM technique is not yet available for clinical practice. The research discovery was conducted as part of Tamer Hussein's PhD studies at RCRH under the supervision of Dr Gilchrist and Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson.

The ESHRE annual conference this year was held in Prague, Czech Republic. For more information please visit http://www.eshre.com/emc.asp


Contact Details

Dr Robert Gilchrist
Head of Oocyte Biology Group
Research Centre for Reproductive Health
University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 8183

Magdalena Kaziniec
Email: magda.kaziniec@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/rcrh
Marketing & Public Relations Officer
Research Centre for Reproductive Health
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 8171
Fax: +61 8 8313 4099