CHR Profile: David F. Albertini, Ph.D., fighting for every egg with in vitro maturation (IVM)

CHR portraits-09At a recent meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, David Albertini, Ph.D., CHR’s Director of Laboratories and Senior Scientist, delivered two lectures on a promising area of research in human assisted reproductive technology (ART). The meeting was sponsored by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) on the subject of “Oocyte maturation: from basics to clinic,” and was attended by 137 scientists and clinicians, representing 35 countries from around the world. He delivered the plenary lecture on the history of in vitro oocyte maturation (IVM), and another talk on the breakthroughs in basic research that are leading the way to important clinical applications for the treatment of infertility.

As recently published by ESHRE in the May 2016 issue of the society’s official magazine, Focus on Reproduction, Dr Albertini’s remarks were summarized as follows: Rarely does an opportunity arise at a time when the confluence of basic science and clinical advance energize ART to the level of practicality. This ESHRE workshop took participants from the basic mechanisms of oocyte maturation to promising clinical findings which reflect the safety and suitability of IVM for understanding the mechanisms of developmental competence. While much remains to be refined before large scale clinical application, this meeting synergized the available evidence into a workable paradigm that will in the near future translate into clinically valuable dividends.

Guided by the natural physiology behind ovulation induction in women, retrieved oocytes in a majority have ripened and matured to a state ready for fertilization and embryo development. This, however, does not apply to all retrieved oocytes. As many fertility patients experience at CHR, even unripe immature eggs can be given a chance to prepare for fertilization by culturing them overnight in an enriched medium that often results in IVM, adding to the patients’ pools of eggs to be fertilized and, hence, to the number of embryos they would end up transferred into the uterus or frozen for later use. By some, this process is called “oocyte rescue,” and CHR investigators recently published their experience with this technique [Lee et al., Rescue in vitro maturation (IVM) of immature oocytes in stimulated cycles in women with low functional ovarian reserve (LFOR). Endocrine 2016;52:165-171].

Using animal models designed to identify the best culture conditions that will support the process of oocyte maturation, Dr. Albertini has pioneered the use of IVM for embryo production for over 25 years. In 2001, he for the first time began moving his animal research into clinical IVF, working in Boston with the laboratory of Catherine Racowsky, PhD at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University, who is an invited speaker at the upcoming Novembers scientific conference in New York City organized by the Foundation for Reproductive Medicine and co-sponsored by CHR.

Here at CHR, we are already routinely utilizing “oocyte rescue” for selected patients requiring fertility preservation, in women with inherent defect in the oocyte maturation processes and especially in poor responder patients who produce only few eggs and embryos. As CHR investigators in above cited study demonstrated, in such patients “oocyte rescue” can make the difference!

This is a part of the July 2016 VOICE. Read the issue in PDF.

Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.