Reflections on Fertility 2022
I was fortunate enough to be awarded a travel grant by the British Fertility Society to attend the Fertility 2022 Conference. Although I was initially a bit disappointed as my grand plans of travelling to Liverpool to attend the conference, away from the hustle and bustle of my rota, were dashed by the worsening Covid scenario. However, the virtual conference like last year did not fail in providing me with a rich 3-day long academic extravaganza in the latest developments in the fields of Reproductive Medicine and Embryology.
All the sessions were extremely interesting, especially those enlightening us on new molecules like Rekovelle and new automated artificial intelligence techniques like iDAscore. Amongst these, I found the Cooper Surgical symposium on ‘Stop, slow, or go – What the HFEA outcome data tells us about the traffic light guidance for PGT-A’, by Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics, University of Kent, UK, very useful and informative.
Being a clinician at a tertiary university hospital in the UK, I come across a high number of women who are either at an advanced age or have met with multiple failed IVF attempts, thus making their journey look hopeless and ours more daunting. These couples are always keen for something more – to improve the success, that too in the quickest possible time minimising the number of failed cycles. One of the common instances related to this is the dilemma over offering a PGT-A (Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis for Aneuploidy) for embryo selection – given as a ‘red light’ on the HFEA website, thereby meaning that there are no randomised controlled trials available to show its benefit in improving live birth rates in IVF.
I particularly enjoyed Professor Griffin’s explanation that indeed PGT-A does not improve cumulative live-birth rates in a good prognosis population but it was never meant to be useful for that group in the first place, as ‘Covid vaccine does not protect against HIV and the Easter Bunny does not bring Christmas presents’!
Jayeeta Samanta, BFS Member
I was very fortunate to be awarded a travel grant by the British Fertility Society to attend the Fertility2022 Conference in Liverpool. I was looking forward to attending a conference in person since I had attended the Fertility2020 conference in Edinburgh and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the conversations I had with fellow scientists. However, plans took a very (un)expected turn and the conference was ultimately held online. Despite this curveball, the conference did not fail to meet expectations, and it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about current findings in reproductive medicine.
All the sessions I attended were interesting, however, one session that I found particularly useful was the talk by Dr Violetta Soura from The Agora Clinic. The research she presented looked at analysing the use of antioxidant supplementation to improve reproductive success in cases with high DNA fragmentation Index (DFI) as detected by the Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay. In cases with moderate to high DFI, there was an associated reduced chance of biochemical pregnancy when performing ICSI. When the male patients had antioxidant treatment prior to ICSI, there was a clear improvement in reproductive outcome success. This research highlights the benefits of DFI testing to potentially detect the cause of male related subfertility and the use of antioxidant treatment to help enhance reproductive success.
Another noteworthy talk was by Dr Jennifer Tamblyn from the University of Birmingham that discussed immunological testing in women with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). Over 50% of patients experiencing RPL have no underlying pathology identified as the cause of pregnancy loss. Nonetheless, for these patients Dr Tamblyn discussed the hypothesis that it could be a result of dysregulated levels of immune cell activity and that a delicate balance in immune activity is essential for pregnancy success. The research looked at performing a detailed phenotypic and functional analysis of immune subsets with the intent of identifying serum immune cell biomarkers for women with RPL. This is pivotal in identifying the root cause of pregnancy loss and helping identify the correct treatment pathway.
Finally, I found this conference enriching and am looking forward to Fertility 2023 in Belfast.
Marie Claire Aquilina, BFS Member
Following a successful application for a BFS Travel Grant I was fortunate to attend this year’s ‘Fertility 2022’ conference. Despite the last-minute transition to online, this was a fantastic meeting, showcasing the most current and exciting advances in Reproductive Medicine.
As I am shortly commencing subspeciality training this was a valuable opportunity to gain a detailed update on a broad range of current topics, ranging from the most recent advances in epigenetic inheritance to qualitative research regarding couple’s whole fertility experience. I particularly enjoyed the talks from the society’s invited international speakers, sharing clinical knowledge and experiences from a breadth of countries, including Africa, Netherlands and USA. The ‘UPDATE sessions’, delivered by a range of prominent senior speakers, offered a concise update on hot clinical topics including unexplained subfertility, fibroids and polyps, and miscarriage prevention.
I am very grateful to the Society for the opportunity to present my own research in the ‘Young Clinician prize’ session and online poster forum regarding immunological testing and vitamin D serum assessment in women with recurrent pregnancy loss. The range of talks in my oral session alone, including ‘serum progesterone levels on the day of frozen embryo transfer (ProFET)’ and ‘Fertility preservation in transgender males’, demonstrates the breadth of research being performed by Specialty Trainees and early career researchers in the UK.
Having been unable to attend all this year’s conference, I really benefited from access to the recorded sessions. This is an advantage of the virtual conference and perhaps one to take forward to Fertility 2023, which I very much hope to attend in person.
Jennifer Tamblyn, BFS Member