Research and Development

To support the ongoing scientific effort Fertility Associates has a number of initiatives underway in three areas; leading research collaboration, scientific development and improvement initiatives.

Leading research collaboration is Fertility Associates’ programme to support basic research in areas of embryology and related science. Fertility Associates’ supports a fellow, Dr Mark Green, through a grant to the Liggins Institute (the Fertility Associates’ Research Fellowship Fund). Dr Green is using bovine models to try to understand why stimulated follicles do not nurture eggs as well as the dominant follicle in natural cycles.   Ultimately this work is looking to improve on the fact that only 10% of oocytes collected in human IVF typically result in a live birth. Another feature of our work with the Liggins is that their reproductive medicine group will provide research advice and support to  CREI trainees at Fertility Associates.

In addition to the Liggins work, Fertility Associates supports two PhD students “on-site” through Victoria and Massey Universities. One is a bioprocess engineer looking at embryology from the embryo’s point of view, modelling temperature, oxygen and pH stresses.  Some of her early work was presented at FSA in 2008. The second PhD student is an embryologist studying communication between oocyte and cumulus cells, using human and animal models.

Scientific development refers to Fertility Associates’ core programmes of development in existing and emerging areas of embryology. Fertility Associates has a number of “firsts” in NZ being the first in New Zealand to offer ICSI and PGD as well as the first baby in Australasia from vitrified/thawed embryo and a novel method for freezing single sperm. Current programmes include developments in vitrification, improvements to blastocyst culture, egg freezing, in-vitro maturation (IVM) and “sperm health”. The latter programme involved the presentation to FSA 2008 on donor sperm counts over the last twenty years and was published in the NZ Medical Journal. Having found a possible “what” issue, Fertility Associates is continuing this sperm health effort with Victoria University to determine potentially “why”.

Lastly, Fertility Associates seeks to develop the research capabilities of its scientific staff through a number of improvement initiatives as part of the “Level five programme”. Top embryologists have a day a week devoted to individual projects in development areas as diverse as AMH testing, HIV+ sperm washing and donor programme improvement.

Through combining this overall effort Fertility Associates intends to maintain a strong position as fertility treatment becomes increasingly tailored to the individual to provide the best possibility of a more certain positive outcome.