Program in Reproductive Medicine


ABOUT THE PROGRAM

The program seeks to understand the regenerative qualities of sperm and eggs and the biology of early embryos, with the goal of harnessing these qualities in the storage of germ cells and embryos for cancer patients who aim to preserve their fertility.  The program is also studying infertility, including its causes, treatments, and potential risks of treatments, with the objective of giving couples safe and effective options through the use of assisted reproductive technologies.

BREAKTHROUGHS IN RESEARCH

  • Recent advances have shown that male stem cells from a variety of mammalian species that are cryopreserved for more than a decade can generate healthy offspring  (Wu, et al.: Human Reproduction 2012).
  • Investigators have identified molecules that are critical for propagation of stem cells in culture  (Niu, et al.: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2011).  Culturing and maturation of immature cells from pre-pubescent boys and women with cancer will be essential to permit future fertility for these individuals.
  • Changes in the DNA methylation profile of the genome of children conceived by assisted reproductive technologies may be associated with the observed small increased incidence of imprinting disorders and birth defects associated with assisted reproductive technologies  (Turin, et al.: PLoS Genetics 2010).  An understanding of the effects of these technologies on offspring will allow methodological improvements with clear benefits to human health.
  • Defects in molecules that are associated with the age-related increased risk of aneuploidy in human females have been identified  (Chiang, et al.: Current Biology 2010).

ON THE HORIZON

  • The storage and propagation of cryopreserved stem cells from cancer patients is being pursued.
  • Robust technologies for in vitro differentiation of stem cells into mature eggs and sperm are being developed.
  • Breakthroughs in technology through the use of animal models will improve the efficiency, outcome and health of children born after assisted reproductive technologies.

“Our research may lead to preventive therapies and measures that can decrease the incidence rate of rare genetic disorders. Together, we can give a voice to, and advocate for pregnant women and babies at risk.”
Marisa S. Bartolomei, Ph.D., is Director of IRM Program in Reproductive Medicine.  Dr. Bartolomei is a world leader in understanding the basis by which genes in male and female germ cells can gain different characteristic patterns of activity.
Ralph L. Brinster, V.M.D, Ph.D., is Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology.  Dr. Brinster was a founding Co-Director of the IRM and is a member of the Program in Reproductive Medicine.  His work in developing ways to add human genes to mice in order to study human disease is considered to have revolutionized the field.