No field of medicine has drawn so deeply from research as assisted reproduction. From its very beginnings, when we could not even fertilise an oocyte outside of the womb (a technique which today is regarded as mainstream all over the world), this discipline has been based on research in order to achieve all the breakthroughs, whether large or small, in treating our patients.
ART is a field of medicine that is still in its infancy, and even though many advances have now allowed us to treat thousands of patients every year, we are still a long way from our dream, which is to be able to treat infertility in all our patients. To achieve this goal we need to use, in the best way possible, the tools that we already have at our disposal. However, we also need to keep studying and doing research and find new ways to cure, to understand more about the origin and mechanisms of infertility and learn how we can select the best sperm and eggs, as well as the most suitable embryos to transfer to our patient.
We also need to have a better understanding of what the psychological consequences of infertility and fertility treatments are, so that we are able to help our patient through treatments that can sometimes become difficult to carry out. Basic and clinical research in the pathophysiology and psychology of infertility are, therefore, an important priority at EUGIN Clinic. Our total commitment to our patients is also reflected in the ethical, rigorous and scientific research we carry out.
The treatment of the future is being developed today by scientists conducting basic research. They are working in order to understand the basis for this situation, and to improve our ability to select the best gametes and embryos for assisted reproduction. For this reason, we have created an area that has been specially set up to enable our scientists to focus on this important task.
The EUGIN Clinic Basic Research Laboratory is located within the Barcelona Scientific Park (PCB) complex, a research incubator located side by side with the R&D departments of large laboratories, up-and-coming biotech startups, and, most importantly, research groups from some of the country’s leading institutions, such as IBEC, IRB, CSIC, CNAG, and the University of Barcelona. This vibrant scientific community allows our scientists to learn from experts in many fields, and to conduct research into human reproduction based on the latest and most powerful technologies in biomedical research.
Basic lines of research
Through our basic research, we want to provide answers to some of the most pressing and important questions in the field of assisted reproduction. We are currently focusing our efforts on 3 aspects of infertility:
Even though we observe hundreds of human oocytes every day, and we can appreciate the morphological differences among them, the quality of the oocyte is hidden from view. We also know that some of them will be more able to produce a pregnancy than others. This issue has been studied for many years, and lots of advances have been made, but in general we are not very good at reliably predicting whether a specific egg will result in a pregnancy. The biochemical and genetic markers of quality analysed so far have proven themselves to be rather unsuitable because of the need to harm the oocyte in order to assess them. Therefore, at EUGIN Clinic we are developing new ways to look at these fascinating cells from the molecular and biochemical point of view. This first line of research is being developed in the laboratory through a series of experiments and in collaboration with internationally recognised research groups in Europe and the USA.
When we do in vitro fertilization using ICSI, we need to select sperm that will fertilize the eggs. Since we cannot re-create the selection in the sperm population that takes place naturally in the woman’s genital tract, the current criteria used in the laboratory are very valid. However, they don’t tell the whole story. There are some molecular aspects of sperm physiology that we are just starting to understand, and in the future, we will be capable of incorporating advanced sperm testing in our daily routine. We are actively engaged in finding innovative technological ways to improve sperm selection, which we are doing in collaboration with professionals from the bio-engineering and astrophysics fields.
Epigenetics studies the changes that we can see in an embryo’s DNA, which are not related to a sequence defect or a mutation. Epigenetic changes can be related to the way in which the embryo responds to the environment around it. Things like a woman’s general state of health, the hormones used for stimulation, the kind of assisted reproduction technique used, and many other less obvious factors can influence the epigenetic state of the embryo. Most of these changes are reversible and relatively interesting, but some might be important for the future development of the child and even into adulthood. The research field is still in its infancy and there is still no conclusive data, but we firmly believe that only by having a clear vision at all times of what is happening, can we guarantee the best outcome for our patients, and , of course, for their future children.
Last Updated: November 2017