30 March 2023

Uterine fibroids and premature ovarian failure: three IVI studies have received awards at the SRI

uterine fibroids
By the Editorial Comitee IVI Blog

For yet another year, IVI has been present at the congress of the Society for Reproductive Research (SRI), which held its 70th edition in Brisbane. It is one of the most important reproductive medicine events in the world, which is why we presented several papers, some of which received awards.

Research activity is one of our mainstays. For this reason we lead several projects with the aim of helping all women and couples who want to have a child. Today we talk about the main studies that IVI presented at SRI 2023.

Therapies for women with premature ovarian failure

One of the lines of research IVI is working on is therapies for women suffering from Premature Ovarian Failure. Also known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), this pathology refers to menstrual and ovulatory abnormalities in women under the age of 40. It should not be confused with early menopause, which is the end of a woman’s reproductive capacity.

However, POI also causes fertility problems and makes it difficult to become pregnant. In many cases it prevents the women who suffer from it from being able to conceive with their own eggs. The IVI Foundation’s Endometrial Stem Cell Biology and Uterine Bioengineering group, led by Dr. Irene Cervelló, presented the study ‘Bioengineering an Ovarian-Specific ECM Hydrogel to Treat Premature Ovarian Failure’, awarded the President’s Presenter’s Award, the highest recognition granted by the scientific society.

“This study could become a therapeutic option for women with POI as the results of the study are very promising. It shows that hydrogel combined with growth factors improved the number of mature eggs obtained in mice, compared to animals that did not receive the treatment, or received alternative treatments,” explained Dr. Cervelló.

Treatment of uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are the most common female tumors and are always benign. In fact, 70% of women of childbearing age may have fibroids. Most are asymptomatic. However, 1 in 4 cases may involve menorrhagia (very heavy or prolonged periods), discomfort during sexual intercourse, pelvic or abdominal pain.

Furthermore, uterine fibroids increase the risk of miscarriages. They make it difficult to conceive naturally, meaning they have a negative effect on female fertility. This is why IVI focuses part of its research on the treatment of benign tumors.

At the SRI, Dr. Hortensia Ferrero, a researcher at the IVI Foundation, won the President’s Presenter’s Award for her study ‘Doxercalciferol Decreases Uterine Fibroid Growth Rate Through the Regulation of ECM Synthesis and Cell Proliferation’.

“The results of our study highlight the potential of vitamin D analogues, specifically Doxercalciferol, as a therapeutic option for the treatment of uterine fibroids in patients who wish to maintain their fertility. Doxercalciferol reduces the growth of fibroids by 42%. This is possible through the expression of genes involved in cell proliferation and extracellular matrix production, These are the two main pathways for the progression of this type of tumor,” said Dr. Ferrero.

A way to improve oocyte quality

Another of the main causes of infertility today is low oocyte quality. This problem that not only affects natural pregnancies but also the outcomes of fertility treatments. The increasing age at which women become mothers has a direct influence on this factor. The effect of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy on women is also a cause.

In both cases, increased levels of oxidation in the oocyte could be one of the mechanisms involved. This is the result of another study led by the IVI Foundation, with encouraging results for women who want to become mothers.

“In our study ‘Nicotinamide Mononucleotide supplementation improves oocyte quality in chemotherapy induced ovarian damage mouse models’ we evaluated whether oral supplementation with nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) can reverse the decrease in oocyte quality associated with chemotherapy-induced damage in an animal model. This is the first time that the role of NMN has been investigated against the damage caused by cancer treatments,” said Dr. Sonia Herraiz, researcher at the IVI Foundation and supervisor of the study.

NMN is a precursor of the active substance Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+). This is a key molecule in multiple biological processes, with antioxidant potential.

“Following IVF in animals, we observed higher fertilization rates and improved embryo development. Therefore, we can indicate that treatment with NMN is a promising therapeutic strategy for improving oocyte quality, for which there is currently no viable treatment,” added Dr. Herraiz.

Trace elements, an influential factor in reproductive outcomes

The general decline in fertility in recent decades is also attributed to environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet. In this regard, the following is another of the studies presented by IVI and supervised by Dr. Francisco Domínguez: “Positive association between essential trace elements in female biological matrices and IVF outcomes in euploid single embryo transfer cycles.” It identifies the trace elements associated with better and worse reproductive outcomes in in-vitro fertilization treatments.

“Our data showed that a higher concentration of trace elements, such as copper and the copper/zinc ratio in follicular fluid and plasma, and manganese in plasma, was significantly associated with higher ovarian response to hormonal stimulation and better embryological outcomes in IVF treatment. In contrast, higher lithium concentrations in follicular fluid were associated with lower ovarian reserve, lower response to ovarian stimulation and lower fertilization rate in IVF treatment. These results suggest a direct impact between trace element levels and IVF treatment outcomes,” concluded Dr. Francisco Domínguez, researcher at the IVI Foundation and supervisor of the study.

Research, one of IVI’s mainstays

Another of the studies presented by IVI that got an award by the SRI focuses on analyzing embryos’ developmental behavior, beyond the day of transfer, in cultures prolonged in the laboratory until approximately day 12, depending on whether they are euploid (chromosomally normal), trisomy 21 (with an extra chromosome 21 or Down’s Syndrome) or monosomy 21 (with one less chromosome 21). This study will enable us to discover when developmental differences are detected in the embryos’ morphology and in the expression of their chromosomes.

“This will help us to see if it is possible to silence the extra chromosome in some embryos using CRISPR technology in human cell lines, in order to attempt to do the same in the human embryo in a second phase,” stated Dr. Inma Sánchez, gynecologist at IVI Barcelona and supervisor of the study.

IVI currently has 7 research centers in 9 countries, clearly reflecting its commitment to advance in treatments that help patients to become parents.

This is reflected by Dr. Juan Antonio García Velasco, IVI’s Scientific Director. “Research has been guiding our progress for more than 3 decades. It is this effort to constantly advance in the knowledge of the field we work in and the discovery of the best options for our patients that has enabled us to become a benchmark in the assisted reproduction sector and to achieve the best results in our treatments. Today we continue to study, learn and make progress, so that tomorrow any fertility problem can be solved with the help of science. Forums such as the SRI provide a space for the exchange of knowledge to outline the current focal points that will mark the future of our profession”.

The findings obtained by IVI have a clinical application in the treatments we offer our patients, such as uterine fibroids. That is why we are experts in highly complex cases, and we have the most advanced technology for our treatments. If you would like more information on this subject, you can contact us by telephone or by filling in our online form so that our team can call you.

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