A commentary of the recent Fertility 2018 event, by Georgia Everett
From 4th-6thJanuary, the Association of Clinical Embryologists, British Fertility Society and the Society for Reproduction & Fertility held their 11thjoint conference, Fertility 2018. The event, held at the ACC Arena in Liverpool, is put on to showcase the most cutting-edge research and developments in the field of reproductive biology and fertility.
I attended the conference to present a poster of my research conducted as part of my MSc Reproductive Medicine: Science and Ethics thesis jointly with City Fertility, an IVF centre based in London. My poster explored whether algorithms installed in time-lapse imaging systems, specifically the EmbryoScope incubator, are as good or better than embryologists at choosing the embryo(s) for transfer most likely to result in a clinical pregnancy.
The conference itself was packed full of interesting lectures from clinicians and researchers worldwide. The first day focused on male fertility, followed by female fertility and then embryos and offspring on the consecutive days after, with the general focus of the conference being on environmental influences on fertility.
Notable sessions included the future of IVF, detailing the upcoming field of robotics and how it can be used to ‘carry’ immotile sperm into the egg and other new developments including next-generation sequencing on embryonic DNA left behind in culture media. Another interesting lecture was presented by a researcher from the University of Adelaide, exploring how maternal obesity at the time of conception can damage the mitochondrial DNA in the egg, leading to slower embryo development and an increased likelihood of obesity in the offspring.
In addition to laboratory research, there were some fascinating sessions on the ethical conundrums within fertility including the effect of fertility education at school, the impact of a diagnosis of azoospermia on male identity and, of course, the horror that is the postcode lottery in IVF funding. As a scientist, it was refreshing to analyse my everyday work from an alternate angle and puts you in the position of the patient, enabling us to improve the patient experience from our side of the process.
There was opportunity for interesting debate and discussion both within the lectures and the coffee breaks, which, in itself, showed the high quality of the material presented to us throughout the conference. The lectures were thought-provoking and excited the field about the prospects that lay ahead of us. The conference returns for Fertility 2019 next January in Birmingham – it will be interesting to see how much of the research presented at this year’s event has made real progress in the field throughout the year to come.