Category Archives: Infertility

Infertility hope: Uterus transplant results in a healthy baby boy

pixabay baby holding dad's fingerInfertility is a heartbreaking problem that many women and couples face. There’s nothing worse than wanting a baby and being told that it will never happen, or being given the “one in a million” speech. And while there have been many advances in medicine that have helped women overcome the diagnosis of “infertility,” recent news of womb transplant success gives us a new reason to be optimistic!

For women who were born without a uterus (this affects about 1 in 5000 women worldwide) or have lost theirs to cancer, becoming pregnant doesn’t even seem like an option. But in September, all that changed when baby Vincent was born. Vincent’s mother was one of nine patients who had undergone a uterine transplant over the last two years in this particular study. Out of those nine patients, Vincent’s mom was the first to deliver her baby, and six others are currently pregnant.

While several countries may now start their own womb transplant programs, this is unlikely to become a commonplace technique, as it is expensive and risky. Patients must remain on anti-rejection medication to prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted uterus. After birth, the uterus would need be removed to prevent long-term health effects from anti-rejection drugs. But it’s still an incredible advance, and women who had no hope of becoming pregnant may now have a chance.

None of this would have been possible without dedicated researchers worldwide and the animal models that have contributed to the understanding and application of this science. Surgical techniques and anti-rejection drugs have progressed to the point of actually allowing a woman without a uterus to undergo a successful transplant and give birth to healthy baby- and that’s amazing! Read more about it here.

Premature infants and the benefits of massage

iStock_000013183519LargeThe health of premature infants has been helped considerably by researchers who have been working on a study in rats that started in 1979. The research shows that the health conditions of premature infants can be improved significantly by introducing certain massage techniques.

Using these stimulation techniques, it’s been found that premature infants have been able to be released from the ICU an average of six days earlier than when these techniques weren’t used. Not only is this beneficial for infant health, it’s also a significant cost savings for insurance companies- a win-win for everyone.

Interestingly enough, when the research study started, the original questions that were being asked had nothing to do with premature infants. Instead, researchers were trying to determine how applying moderate pressure to rats could affect a particular brain growth enzyme. Later, it was found that this stimulation also improved brain growth in premature infants. This isn’t the first time that research studies have led to results that led scientists in a different direction. Read about more research with unexpected results here- including Viagra and new medication to improve recovery after heart attacks.

This research has earned a Golden Goose Award, which will be awarded near the end of September 2014. This is a great recognition- and also a reminder that the support of basic research is extremely important! Who knows where it could lead next?

Read more about it here: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/09/11/golden-goose-award-presented-duke-researchers-rat-study

Vasectomies: the next generation (or not…)

iStock_000018769253SmallFor men who don’t want to commit to a surgical vasectomy, a new option may soon be available. It’s called Vasalgel, and this “no-scalpel vasectomy” could be the next generation of men’s birth control by effectively eliminating the creation of… yes, the next generation.

Traditional vasectomies involve cutting the vas deferens in a brief surgical procedure. Vasalgel is just what is sounds like: a gel. The non-hormonal gel is injected into the vas deferens, where it stays in place and tears apart sperm as they pass through. It’s likely to be more easily reversed than a traditional vasectomy, as the reversal would involve flushing the gel out of the vas deferens with a separate injection.

Researchers are still working on this gel, and it’s been successfully tested in rabbits and is currently being tested in male baboons. Results are promising, as none of the baboons has successfully impregnated any females. Researchers estimate that this gel should last for at least 10 years in humans before needing to be re-injected. Read more about it here:

http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/health-med-fit-science/gel-injection-could-be-vasectomy-alternative/nhKWH/

Infertility culprits may be in your kitchen cabinets

pixabay disinfectant spray bottlesNew research shows that two chemicals found in household detergents may be linked to fertility problems. These particular chemicals- didecyl dimethylammonium chloride (DDAC) and alkyl dimethyl benzalkonium chloride (ADBAC)- are found in detergents, disinfectants, cleaners and hand sanitizers, as well as some makeup and dryer sheets.

In laboratory studies, mice exposed to these chemicals suffered from infertility and increased mortality during pregnancy and delivery. Researchers think it’s possible that these chemicals can also affect human fertility.

Research in animals is often necessary to show such links. By working with animals in a laboratory environment, researchers can control variables to determine that any side effects (in this case, infertility) are indeed caused by the chemicals in question. Further research is necessary to study the impact of these chemicals on people, but these initial studies are certainly enough to raise concerns about DDAC and ADBAC.

Read more about this study here:

http://www.emaxhealth.com/12410/detergents-linked-fertility-problems

Remote-controlled sex just took on a whole new meaning

Sharing remote controlRemote controls and sex go together, like, well… remote controls and sex. What did you think this article was about?? Get your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking about science here!

That being said, sometimes science is a little risqué. And we love it that way! Take this new research, which definitely thinks outside the box. And as an added bonus, this science will likely improve the sex lives of a LOT of people.

Researchers are testing a remote-controlled birth control implant. This implant can last up to 16 years, and can be turned on and off with (you guessed it) a remote control. When the device is on, an electric charge melts the seal on the hormone reservoir, releasing the daily dose of levonorgestrel into the body. If the patient want to try to conceive, they simply turn the device off with their remote.

This would be a great long-term option for birth control because it would eliminate the potential for error that is common with current methods. It could also make a big difference in countries where birth control options are limited.

The implant has been tested in humans to deliver daily osteoporosis medication, and animal trials are underway for the hormone-delivering version. The goal is to have the device available by 2018. What do you think? Would you bring this particular remote control into YOUR sex life?

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28193720

Fertility options for male pediatric cancer patients on the horizon!

Dad's loveIn a novel approach at preserving fertility, researchers have successfully produced live offspring from cryopreserved testicle tissue.

You may think that cryopreserving testicle tissue is kind of a stretch- but many cancer patients undergoing treatments don’t have options when it comes to preserving fertility. Doctors can cryopreserve sperm if the patient has already reached puberty, but for young boys, that’s not an option.

By cryopreserving testicle tissue, researchers are able to thaw tissue at a later date and induce the production of sperm. This research was carried out in mice, and through artificial insemination, eight healthy offspring were produced! Amazingly, thawed tissue was able to produce sperm just as well as unfrozen tissue.

There’s still some work to be done before this research can be translated into humans. But as more and more pediatric cancer patients are being successfully cured of their diseases, this research could mean life-changing, long-term fertility options. Read more about it here:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/sns-rt-us-health-testicles-20140701,0,847490.story

Mosquito bites could become ancient history

tiger-mosquito-49141_640Now that summer’s here, have you noticed that the mosquitoes are out in full force? Did you know that mosquitoes cause more human suffering and disease than any other organism on the planet? Over 750,000 people a year die from mosquito-borne illnesses, and it’s not just humans that are affected! Mosquitoes spread dog heartworms, Eastern equine encephalitis, and many other diseases that affect our pets and local wildlife. But there might soon be a solution!

Researchers have figured out a way to genetically engineer mosquitoes that could dramatically reduce or eliminate some mosquito-borne illnesses. In these mosquitoes, when sperm is produced, the X chromosome that the male would normally pass on to its female young is destroyed, so 95% of the time they only have male offspring. Why does this matter? Well, male mosquitoes don’t bite- the females do. Females spread disease, and one female can lay up to 3,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime.

Hopefully, this type of pest control could eliminate many mosquito-borne illnesses. But could this type of gender control work in other species? Could this research have applications in the understanding and management of X-linked diseases? What do you think?

Read more about it here:

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/boys-only-experiment-could-end-biting-mosquitoes-n126806

Fertility may be affected by a woman’s perception of her environment

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing in the parkIs it possible that a woman’s fertility is affected by her perception of the safety of her environment? Researchers are trying to figure out how to answer this question, and you’re not going to believe which tiny animals are helping them. Roundworms!

Roundworms reproduce by themselves by carrying around their own sperm AND eggs. And it turns out that when the worm’s environment is favorable (enough nutrition, not too much competition), they reproduce better. A chemical trail from the worm’s nose to its ovaries ramps up production of prostaglandins, which help guide the sperm to the eggs.

Roundworms are a good model for this type of research, because the worm’s skin is transparent, so sperm motility is easy to observe. Now, researchers are expanding on these studies by looking at prostaglandin levels in human patients to see if they’re correlated with fertility. But the thought that smell and the perception of the environment could alter fertility is interesting, and it could possibly lead to therapies that could help humans and animals with fertility problems!

Research in these worms indicates that the production of prostaglandins might be possible in more ways than previously thought, and in addition to possibly answering some questions about fertility, roundworms might be able to give researchers insight into different targets for pain management and cancer treatments. Read more about it here:

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-roundworms-fertility.html

Hope for preemies- amazing new lung research!

kate evelyn pontiusPremature babies often have lasting lung problems, but hopefully that won’t always be the case. Researchers are working on bigger and better treatments- and there’s some good news!

Currently, mothers of premature babies often receive steroid injections before delivery to help the baby’s lungs develop. After the baby’s birth, surfactant can also be administered to coat the lungs and facilitate oxygen exchange. And while these treatments have saved the lives of many babies and are incredible medical advances, researchers are working on bigger and better ideas.

By using stems cells and regenerative medicine, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are developing techniques that could safely repair damaged lungs of premature infants! They’re using stem cells that make blood vessels, and in addition to providing hope to parents of preemies, this could also potentially help in the treatment of chronic lung diseases in adults. Research in animals has shown promising results, and clinical trials could start in just a few years. Read more about it here:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Ottawa+pediatrician+research+could+transform+outlook+premature+babies/9738332/story.html

Training your sperm for the Olympics

Sperm Swimming PerspectiveAnyone facing infertility issues knows that when it comes to sperm, there’s a big difference between Olympic swimmers and those that will never leave the kiddie pool. But what makes those swimmers go the extra mile?

Researchers have found that it’s all about hydrodynamics. Just as professional swimmers wear swim caps and take extra steps to cruise through the water more efficiently (body waxing, anyone?), sperm with sleeker ‘swim caps’ are faster swimmers.

And it’s all in the genes. In looking at promiscuous mice, researchers found that the ratio between two specific genes is important to hydrodynamics. This is important because if these findings are similar in humans, couples facing infertility issues might have an advantage in knowing which of those swimmers (based on gene expression) are most likely to win the gold medal, so to speak. Who knows- it might be possible to alter gene expression to speed up swimmers that would otherwise need a life jacket! Read more here:

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/04/scienceshot-how-make-speedy-sperm