Accompanying fertilisation are dynamic molecular and biochemical processes that significantly impact subsequent embryonic and fetal development, as well as adult health. The newly fertilised egg is extremely sensitive to the microenvironment within the maternal reproductive tract, and this is reflected in the resetting of its epigenetic code. If the metabolic microenvironment surrounding the oocyte and embryo is altered as a result of IVF, diet or lifestyle factors, this will influence the epigenetic mechanisms that ultimately control the growth rate and development potential of the resulting fetus.
The Early Development group seeks to explain how environmental stress impacts early development, to produce new tools to measure the changes, and to successfully develop interventions to reduce the impact.
Our work within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics focuses on transferring new technologies into the early embryo development field. From the application of new fluorophores, we are mapping the metabolic heterogeneity between individual blastomeres of embryos, revealing that whole embryo metabolic analysis often masks the variability between individual blastomeres. We extended our collaboration with RMIT and enhanced capabilities for autofluorescence methodology and analysis, with promising data examining novel biomarkers of oocyte and early embryo developmental competence, with exciting commercial prospects.
Continued efforts in defining histone modifications within oocyte and early embryo chromatin has revealed major perturbations associated with not only hyperglycemic conditions but also standard conditions encountered within IVF.