24 July 2019

8th International IVIRMA Congress: Present and future of ART meet in Mallorca

The 8th International IVIRMA Congress on Reproduction took place in Mallorca 4th to 6th April 2019. More than 1,600 participants from 71 countries attended the event in Palma de Mallorca including Javier Marqueta, President of the Congress and Director of IVI Mallorca, Scientific Director Juan Antonio García-Velasco and Dr. Dagan Wells, all members of the scientific committee.

In this blog post you will learn the important role extracellular vesicles play in the communication between the embryo and therefore the chances of a successful reproduction treatment. Furthermore, we will discuss the most important topics around genome editing as well as presenting to you the winners of the IVIRMA Awards.

Extracellular Vesicles:

IVI presented a poster at this year’s IVIRMA congress, presenting new ways to improve embryo selection. The study “Extracellular vesicles can be isolated from culture media with and without exposure to human preimplantation embryos”, by Diego Marín, a PhD student at the IVIRMA office, and Dr. Richard T. Scott, CEO of IVIRMA, was initiated with the goal of finding a biomarker to optimize the embryo selection process by a non-invasive method. By doing this, the implantation rates of embryos improve to around 70%.

Important findings regarding the selection of embryos

In the long term, attempts are made to identify the vesicles, isolate them from culture, and then analyze them to find out what effects they have on the and thus the potential of the vesicles for the assisted area to optimize reproduction. “The extracellular embryonic vesicles provide encouraging, non-invasive ways of assessing the usability of an embryo that could help improve embryo selection and understand the molecular dialogue between embryo and endometrium. This could significantly increase pregnancy rates if this promising instrument is combined with other diagnostic techniques”, says García-Velasco.

Genome editing on embryos

At this year’s congress, Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisúa presented his research results in the field of gene therapy. More specifically, it was about genome editing on embryos performed using the CRISPR technique. This technique acts as a kind of “molecular scissors” and makes it possible to replace damaged parts of the DNA, which can cause hereditary diseases, with healthy ones. Thanks to this method, certain changes can be detected by an analysis of the cells of the embryo prior to its transfer into the uterus and, if necessary, even corrected. Ultimately, genome editing on embryos increases the likelihood of successful pregnancy with a healthy baby.

IVIRMA: Discussion of technical progress and ethical issues

“This kind of medical progress is causing great social controversy, as we recently discovered on the occasion of the news of the birth of a baby in China whose DNA has been modified.” Wells tight. “At this time, we plan to test this technology within the IVI group of companies. Not because we are considering their clinical application in the near future, but because it will enable us to find answers to fundamental questions about the biology and development of human embryos”, the specialist continued. “In addition, from a technical point of view, it is much more practical to carry out this analysis on embryos consisting of a few cells than on infants or adults who have millions of cells.”

International IVIRMA Awards for the eighth time awarded by IVI Foundation

The congress, sponsored by IVI, honored scientific and journalistic professionals with a total of € 56,000 in prize money, which helped shape the evolution of reproductive medicine. Among others, Professor Ashley Moffett won the Best Career Clinical Research Award from Excellence Groups in Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Moffett has pioneered immunology research for more than 25 years and is currently focusing her studies on the interactions between killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KLA) and fetal HLA-C molecules, the cultivation of human trophoblast cells, and the association between the variants of KIR / HLA-C and puerperal preeclampsia, sepsis and birth complications with blockage.

Further award winners from science

Professors Nuno Costa-Borges and Manuel Tena-Semper received the award for Best Career in Basic Research for Excellence in Reproductive Medicine. Prof. Nuno Costa-Borges is committed to the development and enhancement of new reproduction techniques such as the flicking method, which allows the biopsy of blastocysts, the Meiotic Spindle Transfer, to prevent transmission of mitochondrial diseases or to overcome infertility problems that are low Egg quality are attributed. More recently, his research has focused on developing new strategies to rescue chromosomal aneuploidy in older oocytes.

Excellent journalists on the subject of medically assisted reproduction.

Journalist Sonsoles Echavarren received the award in the maternal fetal health category for her report entitled “Around 30 Babies Die Every Year in Navarre During Pregnancy, Childbirth or Their First Month of Life”. The journalist Pilar Arranz has won in the category “Assisted Reproduction” with her report on “Desperate mother looking for baby”.

An industry meeting in the sense of sustainability

This year’s IVIRMA Congress was also dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to end poverty and protect our planet and its people and resources. IVI has written the flag to reduce or recycle its materials. In addition, the group of companies is in favor of renewable energy and the optimization of resources. Two other important aspects for IVI include inclusion as well as the use of local products. Ultimately, it is also crucial for IVI not to waste food.

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