By Prof Sheena Lewis
Understanding the causes of infertility is essential to improving the outcomes of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). It was great to hear from some of the world’s leading fertility experts on their latest research into the causes and treatments of infertility at Fertility 2021. Our first large national, virtual fertility conference proved to be a huge success! Well done to all the speakers, chairs and organisers for putting together such an engaging programme.
Another thank you must go to Profile Productions who managed to resolve any minor technical glitches calmly and efficiently. As we all get to grips with virtual work and life, it’s essential to have experts like them on hand to help us out!
My highlights from this year’s meeting came unsurprisingly from ‘Update 4: Male Fertility – outcomes and techniques’. Each lecture was innovative, evidence based and addressed a topic of high clinical relevance, helping us to further understand male infertility and the importance of optimal sperm quality for successful fertility treatment.
The session featured two of our partner clinics, starting off with Mr Jonathan Ramsay, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, who presented on ‘How and when to use testicular sperm’. Jonathan discussed a new strategy for men who had failed ICSI with ejaculated sperm by using their surgically retrieved sperm. Dr James Nicopoullous, The Lister Fertility Clinic, then went on to describe how this approach had worked in their ART clinic. The three-year study, using testicular sperm, gave 30% live birth rates for these men. This success story can provide a novel approach for men previously offered only donor sperm and will be of interest to fertility professionals and patients alike.
With positive data to date, Professor David Smith of the University of Birmingham shared his insights on the use of microfluidics techniques as a better way to select sperm for ART.
Dr Fabrizzio Horta, Monash University, then discussed the role of oocytes in the repair of sperm DNA damage in IVF and how female aging affects this. This has potential clinical implications and emphasises the importance of having children earlier as well as improving the health of both partners prior to treatment.
At Examen, we measure levels of sperm DNA damage, and believe that male fertility is equally important as female fertility in improving the chances of both natural and assisted conception. Understanding sperm DNA damage provides important information to help experts choose the best form of fertility treatment for the couples they’re supporting. It can also help to explain the causes of miscarriage.
Hearing about the latest fertility research at Fertility 2021 demonstrated the importance of fully understanding male fertility and the impact this is having in improving fertility treatment success. I look forward to working closely with more partner clinics this year to provide a better understanding of sperm DNA fragmentation with our Exact range of tests and help more men become dads.