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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Biology & Bio Instrumentation’ Category


Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is now regarded as a huge clinical success which has benefitted an estimated 16 million parents, at the time the development not only sparked moral outrage but led to political and legislative constraints. Patients undergoing IVF may be presented with numerous assisted reproductive treatments purportedly increasing the chances of pregnancy. Such commercialised “IVF add-ons” often come at high costs without clinical evidence of validity. Additionally, long-term studies of children born through IVF have historically been scarce and inconsistent in their data collection. This has meant that potential genetic predispositions, such as increased body fat composition and blood pressure, as well as congenital abnormalities long associated with IVF births, lack proof of causality.

 

With Preimplantation genetic testing mutated embryos are automatically discarded, whereas CRISPR could correct mutations to increase the number of viable embryos for implantation. Moreover, in instances where all embryos in a given cycle are destined to develop with severe or lethal mutations, CRISPR could bring success for otherwise doomed IVF treatments. Genetic screening programs offered to couples in hot-spot areas of carrier frequency of monogenic disorders have had huge success in alleviating regional disease burdens. Carried out since the 1970s these programs have altered the course of natural evolution, but few would dispute their benefits in preventing heritable disease transmission.

 

Mutations are as inevitable as death and taxes. Whilst age is considered one of the largest factors in de-novo mutation generation, it appears that these are inherited primarily from the paternal line. Thus, the paternal age of conception predominantly determines the mutation frequency inherited by children. Whereas advanced maternal age is not associated with mutagenic allele frequency but chromosomal abnormalities. The risk of aneuploidy rises steadily in mothers over the age of 26. Although embryos are screened for aneuploidy prior to implantation, with so many other factors simultaneously being screened the probability of having enough embryos remaining to allow for 50% rate of blastocyte development in-vitro are often fairly low.

 

Despite IVF being used routinely for over 40 years now, it’s not abundantly clear if, or how often, IVF may introduce genomic alternations or off-target affects in embryos. Likewise, scientists and clinicians are often unable to scrutinise changes produced through natural cellular processes including recombination and aging. So, it may be OK to do controlled experiments on using CRISPR to try and prevent multi-generational suffering. But, there has to be a long term investigation on the side effects of germline genome editing. Science has advanced a lot but still there are lot of things that are yet to be described or discovered by science. Trying to reduce human suffering should not give rise to new bigger sufferings and care must be taken not to create a Frankenstein.

 

References:

 

http://www.frontlinegenomics.com/news/29321/opinion-piece-morally-is-germline-genome-editing-all-that-different-to-ivf/

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

When a baby is born through its mother’s birth canal, it is bathed in a soup of microbes. Those born by caesarean section (C-section) miss out on this bacterial baptism. The differences in microbe exposure at birth and later health could be caused by other factors, such as whether a mother takes antibiotics during her surgery, and whether a baby is breastfed or has a genetic predisposition to obesity. So, the researchers are sharply split on whether or not this missing of bacterial exposure increases the risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and asthma.

 

Researchers found that babies delivered surgically harboured different collections of bacteria than did those born vaginally. C-section babies, which comprise more than 30% of births in the United States, are also more prone to obesity and immune diseases such as diabetes. Experiments show that mice born by C-section are more prone to obesity and have impaired immune systems. There are fewer factors that could account for these differences in the rodents, which can be studied in controlled conditions, than in people.

 

A wave of clinical trials now under way could help to settle the question — and feed into the debate over whether seeding babies born by C-section with their mother’s vaginal bacteria is beneficial or potentially harmful. Several groups of researchers will be swabbing hundreds of C-section babies with their mother’s microbes, while comparing them to a control group. Each team plans to monitor its study participants over several years in the hope of learning more about how the collection of microbes in their bodies might influence weight, allergy risk and other factors.

 

But some scientists say that the trials could expose C-section babies to infection, or encourage mothers to try do-it-yourself swabbing, without much evidence that there is a benefit or risk. Moreover, there is no evidence that differing exposure to vaginal microbes at birth can help explain variation in people’s health over time. Presently the whole concept is in very much a state of uncertainty.

 

Researchers in near future will compare swabbed C-section babies with a placebo group and with infants delivered vaginally. They confirmed that their protocols will not increase the risk of infection for C-section babies. Scientists will also rigorously screen mothers participating in these trials for microbes such as HIV and group B streptococcus — a common vaginal bacterium that causes respiratory problems in newborns.

 

References:

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02348-3?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31431742

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20566857

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25452656

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22939691

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24030708

 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/02/22/babys-microbiome-changing-due-to-caesarean-birth-and-formula-feeding/

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Leigh syndrome is one of the hundreds of so-called mitochondrial diseases, which are caused by defects in the mitochondria that produce 90 percent of the body’s energy. These disorders are rare; about 1,000 to 4,000 babies in the United States are born with one every year. But they are devastating and can result in grave impairment of nearly any bodily system. They are largely untreatable, uniformly incurable and very difficult to screen.

 

Leigh syndrome is a terrible disease. It emerges shortly after birth and claims one major organ after another. Movement becomes difficult, and then impossible. A tracheotomy and feeding tube are often necessary by toddlerhood, and as the disease progresses, lungs frequently have to be suctioned manually. Most children with the condition die by the age of 5 or 6.

 

Scientists have devised a procedure called mitochondrial replacement therapy (M.R.T.) that involves transplanting the nucleus of an affected egg (mitochondrial diseases are passed down from the mother’s side) into an unaffected one whose nucleus has been removed. The procedure is sometimes called “three-parent in vitro fertilization”. Mitochondria contain a minuscule amount of DNA, any resulting embryo would have mitochondrial DNA from the donor egg and nuclear DNA from each of its parents.

 

After decades of careful study in cell and animal research M.R.T. is now finally being tested in human clinical trials by doctors in Britain (no births confirmed yet officially). In the United States, however, this procedure is effectively illegal. M.R.T. does not involve altering any genetic code. Defective mitochondria are swapped out for healthy ones.

 

Mitochondrial DNA governs only a handful of basic cellular functions. It is separate from nuclear DNA, which helps determine individual traits like physical appearance, intelligence and personality. That means M.R.T. cannot be used to produce the genetically enhanced “designer babies” and thus should be allowed in humans. But, there is no way to know how safe or effective M.R.T. is until doctors and scientists test it in humans.

 

References:

 

 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/10/07/the-three-parent-technique-to-avoid-mitochondrial-disease-in-embryo/

 

 

 

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Research about marijuana and fertility is limited but some previous studies suggested that it might harm semen quality. Smoking of any type is also known to be a risk factor for male infertility. So, men who have smoked cannabis are expected to have worse measures of fertility but the data from a recent study suggested the opposite. The finding contradicts all conventional knowledge on how weed affects sperm. This may be because previous research typically focused on men with drug abuse history but this present study simply asked men if they had smoked more than two joints in their life.

 

Analysis of 1,143 semen samples from 662 men collected between 2000 and 2017 at the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that those who had smoked weed at some point in their life had a mean sperm concentration of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of ejaculate, while men who avoided marijuana entirely had mean concentrations of 45.4 million/mL. Added to this only 5% of weed smokers had sperm concentrations below the 15 million/mL threshold the World Health Organization has set for a “normal” sperm count, versus 12% of men who never smoked marijuana.

 

The study has some imperfections such as the participants are not necessarily representative of the general population. They were predominantly college educated men with a mean age of 36, and were all seeking treatment at a fertility center. Further research is needed to support the findings. Two possibilities are put forward by the researchers as the reason behind such data. The first is that low levels of marijuana could have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system, the neurotransmitters in the nervous system that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and are known to regulate fertility. The second is that may be weed-smokers are just bigger risk takers and men with higher testosterone levels and thus have better sperm count.

 

But, there’s certainly no medical recommendation to smoke weed as a fertility treatment but this study, at least, suggests that a little marijuana doesn’t hurt and might benefit sperm production in some way. But, the researchers specified that their finding does not necessarily mean that smoking cannabis increases the chances of fatherhood.

 

References:

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30726923

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-02-06/cannabis-smoking-associated-with-higher-sperm-count-study-finds?__twitter_impression=true

 

https://qz.com/1543564/smoking-weed-linked-to-higher-sperm-count-in-a-harvard-study/

 

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2019/02/06/cannabis-smoking-associated-with-higher-sperm-count-study-finds/

 

http://time.com/5520421/smoking-marijuana-sperm-fertility/

 

https://www.health.com/infertility/marijuana-sperm-count

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Hepatitis B virus can cause serious, long-term health problems, such as liver disease and cancer, and can spread from mother-to-child during delivery. According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 257 million people in 2015 were living with the virus. Countries in Asia have a high burden of hepatitis B. There is no cure, and antiviral drugs used to treat the infection usually need to be taken for life.

 

To prevent infection, WHO recommends that all newborns receive their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of delivery. Infants born to hepatitis B-infected mothers are also given protective antibodies called hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG). However, mother-to-child transmission can still occur in women with high levels of virus in their blood, as well as those with mutated versions of the virus.

 

Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), an antiviral drug commonly prescribed to treat hepatitis B infection, does not significantly reduce mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus when taken during pregnancy and after delivery, according to a phase III clinical trial in Thailand funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study tested TDF therapy in addition to the standard preventative regimen — administration of hepatitis B vaccine and protective antibodies at birth — to explore the drug’s potential effects on mother-to-child transmission rates. The results appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

 

The present study was conducted at 17 hospitals of the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand. It screened more than 2,500 women for eligibility and enrolled 331 pregnant women with hepatitis B. The women received placebo (163) or TDF (168) at intervals from 28 weeks of pregnancy to two months after delivery. All infants received standard hepatitis B preventatives given in Thailand, which include HBIG at birth and five doses of the hepatitis B vaccine by age 6 months (which differs from the three doses given in the United States). A total of 294 infants (147 in each group) were followed through age 6 months.

 

Three infants in the placebo group had hepatitis B infection at age 6 months, compared to zero infants in the TDF treatment group. Given the unexpectedly low transmission rate in the placebo group, the researchers concluded that the addition of TDF to current recommendations did not significantly reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

 

According to the study, the clinical trial had enough participants to detect statistical differences if the transmission rate in the placebo group reached at least 12 percent, a rate observed in previous studies. Though the reasons are unknown, the researchers speculate that the lower transmission rate seen in the study may relate to the number of doses of hepatitis B vaccine given to infants in Thailand, lower rates of amniocentesis and Cesarean section deliveries in this study, or the lower prevalence of mutated viruses that result in higher vaccine efficacy in Thailand compared to other countries.

 

References:

 

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/antiviral-drug-not-beneficial-reducing-mother-child-transmission-hepatitis-b-when-added-existing-preventatives

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29514030

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29514035

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25240752

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28188612

 

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UPDATED on 3/17/2019

https://www.medpagetoday.com/cardiology/prevention/78202?xid=nl_mpt_SRCardiology_2019-02-25&eun=g99985d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CardioUpdate_022519&utm_term=NL_Spec_Cardiology_Update_Active

Transgender hormone therapy appears to increase cardiovascular risk. (Circulation)

A mobile app with a step-by-step guide to prepping vasoactive drugs for CPR of children in the emergency room substantially cut medication errors, drug preparation time, and delivery time compared with using infusion-rate tables in a study using manikins. (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health)

 

Artificial ovary instead of conventional hormone replacement

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

During menopause a woman’s ovaries stop working—leading to hot flashes, sleep problems, weight gain, and worse, bone deterioration. Now scientists are exploring whether transplanting lab-made ovaries might stop those symptoms. In one of the first efforts to explore the potential of such a technique, researchers say they used tissue engineering to construct artificial rat ovaries able to supply female hormones like estrogen and progesterone. A research carried out at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, suggests a potential alternative to the synthetic hormones millions of women take after reaching middle age. A paper describing the findings was published in Nature Communications.

 

Women going through menopause, as well as those who have undergone cancer treatment or had their ovaries removed for medical purposes, lose the ability to produce important hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Lower levels of these hormones can affect a number of different body functions. To counteract unpleasant symptoms, many women turn to combinations of hormone replacement medications—synthetic estrogen and progestin. Pharmacologic hormone replacement therapy (pHRT) with estrogen alone or estrogen and progestogens is known to effectively ameliorate the unpleasant symptoms. But hormone replacement carries an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer, so it’s not recommended for long-term use. In these circumstances artificial ovaries could be safer and more effective.

 

Regenerative medicine approaches that use cell-based hormone replacement therapy (cHRT) offer a potential solution to temporal control of hormone delivery and the ability to restore the HPO (Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Ovarian) axis in a way not possible with pHRT. Scientists have previously described an approach to achieve microencapsulation of ovarian cells that results in bioengineered constructs that replicate key structure-function relationships of ovarian follicles as an approach to cHRT. In the present study the scientists have adapted an isogeneic cell-based construct to provide a proof-of-concept for the potential benefits of cHRT.

 

Tissue or cell encapsulation may offer effective strategies to fabricate ovarian constructs for the purpose of fertility and/or hormone replacement. Approaches using segmental ovarian tissue or whole-follicle implantation (typically with a focus on cryopreservation of the tissue for reproductive purposes) have resulted in detectable hormone levels in the blood after transplantation. Previous studies have also shown that autotransplantation of frozen-thawed ovarian tissue can lead to hormone secretion for over 5 years in humans.

 

Although these approaches can be used to achieve the dual purpose of fertility and hormone replacement in premenopausal women undergoing premature ovarian failure, they would have limited application in postmenopausal women who only need hormone replacement to manage menopausal symptoms and in whom fertility is not desirable. In full development, the technology described in this research is focused on hormone replacement, would meet the needs of the latter group of women that is the postmenopausal women.

 

The cell-based system of hormone replacement described in this report offers an attractive alternative to traditional pharmacological approaches and is consistent with current guidelines in the U.S. and Europe recommending the lowest possible doses of hormone for replacement therapy. In the present research sustained stable hormone release over the course of 90 days of study was demonstrated. The study also demonstrated the effective end-organ outcomes in body fat composition, uterine health, and bone health. However, additional studies will be required to determine the sustainability of the hormone secretion of the constructs by measuring hormone levels from implanted constructs for periods longer than 3 months in the rat model.

 

This study highlights the potential utility of cHRT for the treatment and study of conditions associated with functional loss of the ovaries. Although longer-term studies would be of future interest, the 90-day duration of this rodent model study is consistent with others investigating osteoporosis in an ovariectomy model. However, this study provides a proof-of-concept for cHRT, it suffers the limitation that it is only an isogeneic-based construct implantation. Scientists think that further studies in either allogeneic or xenogeneic settings would be required with the construct design described in this report in the path towards clinical translation given that patients who would receive this type of treatment are unlikely to have sufficient autologous ovarian cells for transplantation.

 

Researchers from Copenhagen, Denmark, were recently able to isolate viable, early stage follicles in ovarian tissue. They have successfully stripped ovarian tissue from its cancerous cells and used the remaining scaffold to support the growth and survival of human follicles. This “artificial ovary” may help y to help women who have become infertile due to cancer and chemotherapy. But, the research is presently at a very preliminary stage and much research is still required to ensure that cancer cells are not reintroduced during the grafting process.

 

References:

 

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/609677/will-artificial-ovaries-mean-no-more-menopause/

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01851-3

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23274068

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26210678

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21954279

 

http://www.frontlinegenomics.com/news/24423/artificial-ovaries-hope-to-help-infertile-women-conceive-following-chemotherapy/

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH), is secreted by growing follicles that contains the egg or ovum. According to regular practice low AMH and high Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) are generally considered as indicators of diminished egg quantity in a female. But, there are several cases the female conceived absolutely normally without any support even after low AMH was reported.

 

Therefore, a new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association declares that AMH doesn’t dictate a woman’s reproductive potential. Although AMH testing is one of the most common ways that doctors assess a woman’s fertility. Present research says that all it takes is one egg each cycle and AMH is not a marker of whether a female can or cannot become pregnant. So, for women who haven’t yet tried to get pregnant and who are wondering whether they are fertile, an AMH value isn’t going to be helpful in that context. In addition, AMH is not necessarily a good marker to predict that whether one has to cryopreserve her eggs. So, practically doctors don’t yet have a way to definitively predict egg quality or a woman’s long-term ability to conceive, but age is obviously one of the most important factors.

 

The above mentioned study followed 750 women between the ages of 30 and 44 who had been trying to conceive for three months or less. During the 12-month observation period, those with low AMH values of less than 0.7 were not less likely to conceive than those who had normal AMH values. The study had various limitations, however, that are worth noting. The researchers only included women who did not have a history of infertility. Women who sought fertility treatments (about 6 percent) were withdrawn. And only 12 percent of the women were in the 38-to-44 age range. In addition, the number of live births was unavailable.

 

Among women aged 30 to 44 years without a history of infertility who had been trying to conceive for 3 months or less, biomarkers indicating diminished ovarian reserve compared with normal ovarian reserve were not associated with reduced fertility. These findings do not support the use of urinary or blood FSH tests or AMH levels to assess natural fertility for women with these characteristics. The researchers’ next want to see whether low AMH is associated with a higher risk of miscarriage among the women who conceived.

 

Although AMH testing isn’t designed to be an overall gauge of a woman’s fertility, it can still provide valuable information, especially for women who are infertile and seeking treatment. It can assist in diagnosing polycystic ovarian syndrome, and identify when a woman is getting closer to menopause. Previous research also showed that AMH is good predictor of a woman’s response to ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization and therefore it can predict the probability of conceiving via in vitro fertilization (I.V.F.).

 

References:

 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2656811?JamaNetworkReader=True

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/health/fertility-test-ovarian-reserve.html

 

https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/26/11/2925/656065

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339896/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27179263

 

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