Molecular aspects of human reproduction
Advanced technologies in molecular biology are used to investigate the following projects:
1. Markers of oocyte/embryo viability: Markers of oocyte/embryo viability can be used to optimize ovarian stimulation and to develop the conditions of in vitro oocyte maturation, and to reduce multiple pregnancies by selecting one good quality embryo for transfer.
2. Rescuing poor quality human preimplantation embryos in vitro: The expression of factors to promote cell growth and to induce cell death or apoptosis has been investigated. Embryo quality can be improved by controlling the expression of these factors. Potentially, poor quality human preimplantation embryos can be salvaged either by modifying gene expression or by germ-line and pre-embryo gene therapy.
3. Gene expression in human reproductive tracks: Gene expression in reproductive cells during folliculargenesis, oogenesis, embryogenesis, implantation, and pregnancy have been evaluated. It also allows us to study the mechanism and temporal patterns of gene expression, and activation of genomic DNA in human embryos.
4. Coculture of embryos with endometrial cells: We have established an unique embryo-endometrial cell coculture system to improve embryo viability and conducted a successful clinical tryout on patients with repeated IVF failures. Coculture was also used to study the role of endometrial secretory growth factors and cytokines, interaction between embryos and endometrial cells, maternal and embryonic signals, and mechanism of implantation.
5. Diagnosis of human genetic disorders: Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is used to prevent pregnancies with genetic abnormalities. PCR (used to detect gene defects) and FISH (used to detect chromosomal abnormalities) are two popular methods used for diagnosis. However, due to their limitations, new methods have been developed to improve the efficiency and accuracy of diagnosis and to increase the number of detectable genes. Currently, the detection of whole genomic profiles of individual blastomeres is under investigation.
6. Cryopreservation of oocyte/embryo/ovarian tissue: Various cryopreservation agents, techniques and protocols were developed to preserve female fertility.
7. Genetic engineering/embryo engineering/tissue engineering: Advanced technologies such as gene transfection, nuclear transfer and three-dimensional (3-D) cell culture were established in order to recontruct genes, embryos and tissue in-vitro.