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PFC Infertility Doctor Blog

The Infertility Blog

October 15, 2012

Almost since the inception of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the successful freezing of egg cells (oocytes) has been a goal of reproductive biologists.  The oocyte is a large, delicate cell and, until recently, it stubbornly resisted all attempts to develop a reliable freezing method.

In the last 5 years, however, a new procedure called vitrification overcame all these problems, turning egg freezing into a routine procedure. Vitrification makes it possible to put oocytes in storage indefinitely, and yet also be able to create high quality embryos at the time of thaw. We now can bank high-quality oocytes from young donors in much the same way sperm has been banked for decades

PFC is extremely pleased to now offer our patients a bank of high-quality oocytes from young donors. The DEB provides the following opportunities:      

October 12, 2012

Futuristic, but no longer far-fetched, regenerative medicine was brought a step closer to reality, thanks to the discoveries of two scientists who, on Monday, were jointly awarded the esteemed Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in the fields of cloning and stem cells.                        

John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in England was the first to clone an animal. In 1962, he produced living tadpoles from the adult cells of a frog by removing the DNA-containing cell nucleus from a mature intestinal cell and injecting it into the nucleus of a frog egg whose nucleus had previously been extracted.

October 08, 2012

This August, the Pacific Fertility Center (PFC) Donor Egg Bank (DEB) became the first freestanding egg bank in Northern California. This follows development of highly innovative egg freezing technology (vitrification) and proven successful birth rates using embryos derived from frozen eggs. 

The PFC Donor Egg Bank and clinical teams are very excited to offer this new option to patients needing donor eggs to create or expand their families. We want to help you realize your dream!

The PFC lab has been using vitrification technology for egg freezing since 2007, and has gained tremendous expertise with these techniques. Our clinic results, as well as published studies reporting on experiences worldwide, confirm that the chances of a live birth using frozen eggs are comparable to those using fresh eggs.  World data also show no increased incidences of birth defects in babies born from embryos derived from frozen eggs.

October 01, 2012

Joseph  Conaghan, PhD

By April of 2013, I will have been an embryologist for 25 years.  I've spent almost half that time at Pacific Fertility Center (PFC). I’ve been very fortunate in my career, privileged to work with so many patients over the years and never dreading to come to work on a Monday morning.

I grew up in a small fishing town called Killybegs, on the northwest coast of Ireland.  I was the second boy among five my parents were blessed with. My mother sent me to school on the day of my 4th birthday, and at age 12, I followed my older brother to boarding school—never living at home after that.  I was a young 17-year-old when I started university in Limerick, where I majored in Biology and Agricultural Science, and picked up a teaching credential.  

September 24, 2012

Genetic and Epigenetic Programs in Human Embryos

Each year, a team of physicians and staff from Pacific Fertility Center attend the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society (PCRS) annual meeting in Palm Springs, CA.  One of the best talks of this conference was given by Dr. Renee Reijo Pera, Professor and Director of the Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research at Stanford University. This was the second year in a row that Dr. Reijo Pera spoke at this conference and she continues to stimulate us with her exciting research. This year she her talk was entitled “Genetic and Epigenetic Programs in Human Embryos.” Her work involves mapping the first six days of human embryonic life. This is a visual map, a genetic map, and a molecular map. Visually, she is filming and analyzing time-lapse images of human embryos in the incubator and has been able to correlate various parameters of how cells divide with the probability that the embryos will make it to a full blastocyst stage by day 5-6 of culture. This has important implications for in vitro fertilization treatment and in the future will allow us to select early on which embryos will likely progress to successful implantation. She has been able to show in preliminary experiments that if the timing of early cell divisions does not follow a specific pattern, those embryos are much more likely to contain an abnormal number of chromosomes. Human embryos also give off cellular fragments as they divide. Sometimes these fragments end up being reabsorbed by the embryonic cells. But these fragments can contain excess chromosomes and mitochondria that are leaving and re-entering the cells. Why this is happening remains to be discovered.

She has also been able to map the process of human embryos expressing their genes. By the 4-8 cell stage of life, human embryos have to “turn on” their own genes and start making their own proteins. They first do this by destroying the maternal RNA (DNA messages) that originally came from the maternal genes in the egg. Then the embryo’s own DNA starts to make its own RNA messages. This finally ends with embryonic proteins being produced in embryos that are viable. Poorer quality embryos and those with chaotic, abnormal chromosome rearrangements are unable to do this properly and stop dividing.

It’s really only by scientists performing some of this essential work on early human embryos that we are going to be able to understand why some embryos make it and some don’t. And it is this understanding that is going to help us to select those embryos most likely to become a healthy human.

     - Carolyn Givens, M.D.