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Free access

T Leahy, J P Rickard, N C Bernecic, X Druart, and S P de Graaf

Ejaculation results in the confluence of epididymal spermatozoa with secretions of the accessory sex glands. This interaction is not a prerequisite for fertilisation success, but seminal factors do play a crucial role in prolonging the survival of spermatozoa both in vitro and in vivo by affording protection from handling induced stress and some selective mechanisms of the female reproductive tract. Reproductive biologists have long sought to identify specific factors in seminal plasma that influence sperm function and fertility in these contexts. Many seminal plasma proteins have been identified as diagnostic predictors of sperm function and have been isolated and applied in vitro to prevent sperm damage associated with the application of artificial reproductive technologies. Proteomic assessment of the spermatozoon, and its surroundings, has provided considerable advances towards these goals and allowed for greater understanding of their physiological function. In this review, the importance of seminal plasma will be examined through a proteomic lens to provide comprehensive analysis of the ram seminal proteome and detail the use of proteomic studies that correlate seminal plasma proteins with ram sperm function and preservation ability.

Open access

Caroline M Allen, Federica Lopes, Rod T Mitchell, and Norah Spears

Chemotherapy treatment is a mainstay of anticancer regimens, significantly contributing to the recent increase in childhood cancer survival rates. Conventional cancer therapy targets not only malignant but also healthy cells resulting in side effects including infertility. For prepubertal boys, there are currently no fertility preservation strategies in use, although several potential methods are under investigation. Most of the current knowledge in relation to prepubertal gonadotoxicity has been deduced from adult studies; however, the prepubertal testis is relatively quiescent in comparison to the adult. This review provides an overview of research to date in humans and animals describing chemotherapy-induced prepubertal gonadotoxicity, focusing on direct gonadal damage. Testicular damage is dependent upon the agent, dosage, administration schedule and age/pubertal status at time of treatment. The chemotherapy agents investigated so far target the germ cell population activating apoptotic pathways and may also impair Sertoli cell function. Due to use of combined chemotherapy agents for patients, the impact of individual drugs is hard to define, however, use of in vivo and in vitro animal models can overcome this problem. Furthering our understanding of how chemotherapy agents target the prepubertal testis will provide clarity to patients on the gonadotoxicity of different drugs and aid in the development of cytoprotective agents.

Free access

T Tharasanit, S Colleoni, G Lazzari, B Colenbrander, C Galli, and T A E Stout

Oocyte cryopreservation is a potentially valuable way of preserving the female germ line. However, the developmental competence of cryopreserved oocytes is presently poor. This study investigated whether the morphology of the cumulus complex surrounding an immature equine oocyte and/or the oocyte’s stage of maturation affect its cryopreservability. Compact (Cp) and expanded (Ex) cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs) were vitrified either shortly after recovery (germinal vesicle stage, GV) or after maturation in vitro (IVM); cryoprotectant-treated and -untreated non-frozen oocytes served as controls. In Experiment I, oocytes matured in vitro and then vitrified, or vice versa, were examined for maturation stage and meiotic spindle quality. Cp and Ex COCs vitrified at the GV stage matured at similar rates during subsequent IVM (41 vs 46% MII), but meiotic spindle quality was better for Cp than Ex (63 vs 33% normal spindles). Vitrifying oocytes after IVM resulted in disappointing post-warming spindle quality (32 vs 28% normal for Cp vs Ex). In Experiment II, oocytes from Cp and Ex COCs vitrified at the GV or MII stages were fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and monitored for cleavage and blastocyst formation. Oocytes vitrified prior to IVM yielded higher cleavage rates (34 and 27% for Cp and Ex COCs) than those vitrified after IVM (16 and 4%). However, only one blastocyst was produced from a sperm-injected vitrified–warmed oocyte (0.4 vs 9.3% and 13% blastocysts for cryoprotectant-exposed and -untreated controls). It is concluded that, when vitrification is the chosen method of cryopreservation, Cp equine COCs at the GV stage offer the best chance of an MII oocyte with a normal spindle and the potential for fertilization; however, developmental competence is still reduced dramatically.

Free access

Georgios Anifandis, Eleni Koutselini, Ioannis Stefanidis, Vassilios Liakopoulos, Constantinos Leivaditis, Themis Mantzavinos, and Nikolaos Vamvakopoulos

This prospective study was undertaken to reassess the prognostic value of leptin during critical stages of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET) and address its role in the functional staging of assisted reproductive technologies at the level of embryo quality. Serum and follicular fluid samples of 100 selected women undergoing the long IVF-ET protocol were collected for leptin and embryo quality determination. The highest serum leptin concentration (52.11 ± 4.27 ng/ml) was observed on ovum pick up day, while follicular fluid leptin was higher than all serum samples examined (62.59 ± 5.73 ng/ml). Serum leptin above 59.48 ± 7.6 ng/ml was associated with ‘poor’ embryo quality and above 56.87 ± 5.52 ng/ml with pregnancy failure. Elevated leptin concentrations were associated with reduced ovarian stimulation and response, follicle maturation, embryo quality and pregnancy success. Our findings suggest that leptin modulates embryo quality and may serve as a sensitive marker of IVF outcome.

Free access

J. Carroll, H. Depypere, and C. D. Matthews

Summary. Frozen–thawed oocytes have a reduced rate of fertilization (48·8%) when compared with unfrozen controls (97%). In this study we have used zona-drilling to bypass the zona pellucida and investigate whether the decreased rate of fertilization is due to freezing-induced changes in the zona pellucida which prevent sperm penetration. After zona drilling the fertilization rate of frozen–thawed oocytes (87·8%) was the same as for zona-intact unfrozen controls (88%), indicating that freeze–thaw-induced changes at the level of the zona pellucida were responsible for the decreased rate of fertilization.

To determine whether the changes were occurring during the manipulations before and after freezing or the complete freeze–thaw cycle, oocytes were exposed to the complete set of manipulations normally experienced during cryopreservation and appropriate control groups. A small but significant decrease in the rate of fertilization (82·8%) was apparent in oocytes exposed to the manipulations before and after freezing compared with controls (92·2%). The freeze–thaw-induced changes in the zona pellucida therefore occur primarily during the complete freeze–thaw cycle itself and not the manipulations before and after freezing and are responsible for the decreased rate of fertilization observed in frozen–thawed oocytes.

Keywords: cryopreservation; oocyte; zona pellucida; in-vitro fertilization; mouse

Open access

Konstantina Nikolakopoulou and Margherita Y Turco

Infertility is a common problem in modern societies with significant socio-psychological implications for women. Therapeutic interventions are often needed which, depending on the cause, can either be medical treatment, surgical procedures or assisted reproductive technology (ART). However, the treatment of infertility is not always successful due to our limited understanding of the preparation of the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, for pregnancy. The endometrium is of central importance for successful reproduction as it is the site of placental implantation providing the interface between the mother and her baby. Due to the dynamic, structural and functional changes the endometrium undergoes throughout the menstrual cycle, it is challenging to study. A major advancement is the establishment of 3D organoid models of the human endometrium to study this dynamic tissue in health and disease. In this review, we describe the changes that the human endometrium undergoes through the different phases of the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. We discuss defects in the processes of endometrial repair, decidualization and acquisition of receptivity that are associated with infertility. Organoids could be utilized to investigate the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms occurring in non-pregnant endometrium and early pregnancy. These studies may lead to therapeutic applications that could transform the treatment of reproductive failure.

Free access

E. A. Lenton, M. Hooper, H. King, A. Kumar, N. Monks, S. Verma, and J. Osborn

Sheffield Fertility Centre, 26 Glen Road, Sheffield, S7 1RA, UK and University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jessop Hospital for Women, Leavygreave Road, Sheffield, S3 7RE, UK

Keywords: implantation; in-vitro fertilization; pregnancy; pregnancy loss; human chorionic gonadotrophin; human

Introduction

The endocrine characteristics of normal human pregnancy have been difficult to establish, chiefly because spontaneous pregnancies occur unpredictably. More reliable sources of early pregnancy data are conceptions following various assisted reproductive technologies although, unfortunately, many of these may not be useful for determining normal physiology, firstly, because there is multiple follicle development resulting from the use of exogenous gonadotrophins and, secondly, because human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) given to induce luteinization masks hCG from the implanting embryo. Furthermore, the practice, at least for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), of replacing up to 3 embryos renders assessment of the number of implantation sites uncertain.

In-vitro fertilization in the natural or spontaneous cycle may provide

Free access

Lindsay A Hogan, Tina Janssen, and Stephen D Johnston

This review provides an update on what is currently known about wombat reproductive biology and reports on attempts made to manipulate and/or enhance wombat reproduction as part of the development of artificial reproductive technology (ART) in this taxon. Over the last decade, the logistical difficulties associated with monitoring a nocturnal and semi-fossorial species have largely been overcome, enabling new features of wombat physiology and behaviour to be elucidated. Despite this progress, captive propagation rates are still poor and there are areas of wombat reproductive biology that still require attention, e.g. further characterisation of the oestrous cycle and oestrus. Numerous advances in the use of ART have also been recently developed in the Vombatidae but despite this research, practical methods of manipulating wombat reproduction for the purposes of obtaining research material or for artificial breeding are not yet available. Improvement of the propagation, genetic diversity and management of wombat populations requires a thorough understanding of Vombatidae reproduction. While semen collection and cryopreservation in wombats is fairly straightforward there is currently an inability to detect, induce or synchronise oestrus/ovulation and this is an impeding progress in the development of artificial insemination in this taxon.

Free access

Himesh Makala, Lavanya Pothana, Surabhi Sonam, Ashwini Malla, and Sandeep Goel

Ectopic autografting of testis tissue is a promising approach for studying testicular development, male germline preservation and restoration of male fertility. In this study, we examined the fate of various testicular cells in adult mouse testes following ectopic autografting at 1, 2, 4 and 8 weeks post grafting. Histological examination showed no evidence of re-establishment of spermatogenesis in autografts, and progressive degeneration of seminiferous tubules was detected. Expression of germ cell-specific proteins such as POU5F1, DAZL, TNP1, TNP2, PRM1 and PRM2 revealed that, although proliferating and differentiating spermatogenic germ cells such as spermatogonia, spermatocytes and spermatids could survive in autografts until 4 weeks, only terminally differentiated germ cells such as sperm persisted in autografts until 8 weeks. The presence of Sertoli and peritubular myoid cells, as indicated by expression of WT1 and ACTA2 proteins, respectively, was evident in the autografts until 8 weeks. Interestingly, seminal vesicle weight and serum testosterone level were restored in autografted mice by 8 weeks post grafting. The expression of Leydig cell-specific proteins such as CYP11A1, HSD3B2 and LHCGR showed revival of Leydig cell (LC) populations in autografts over time since grafting. Elevated expression of PDGFRA, LIF, DHH and NEFH in autografts indicated de novo regeneration of LC populations. Autografted adult testis can be used as a model for investigating Leydig cell regeneration, steroidogenesis and regulation of the intrinsic factors involved in Leydig cell development. The success of this rodent model can have therapeutic applications for adult human males undergoing sterilizing cancer therapy.

Free access

J E Hornick, F E Duncan, L D Shea, and T K Woodruff

In vitro follicle growth in alginate hydrogels is a unique and versatile method for studying ovarian and follicle biology that may also have implications for fertility preservation. Current culture systems support the development of isolated mouse follicles from the secondary stage onward. However, it has been a challenge to grow smaller follicles in vitro due to the dissociation of the oocyte from companion somatic cells. Recent work has demonstrated that coculturing primary follicles with mouse embryonic fibroblasts or ovarian stromal cells supports follicle survival and growth. In this study, we demonstrate that follicles themselves can exert a beneficial coculture effect. When primary follicles were cultured in groups of five or ten (multiple follicle culture), there was increased growth and survival. The multiple follicle culture approach maintained follicle integrity and resulted in the formation of antral stage follicles containing meiotically competent gametes. The growth and survival of primary follicles were highly number dependent, with the most significant enhancement observed when the largest number of follicles was grown together. Our data suggest that the follicle unit is necessary to produce the secreted factors responsible for the supportive effects of multiple follicle culture, as neither denuded oocytes, oocyte-secreted factors, nor granulosa cells alone were sufficient to support early follicle growth in vitro. Therefore, there may be signaling from both the oocyte and the follicle that enhances growth but requires both components in a feedback mechanism. This work is consistent with current in vivo models for follicle growth and thus advances the movement to recapitulate the ovarian environment in vitro.