Researchers use nanotechnology to develop new treatment for endometriosis

Scientists have developed a precise, nanotechnology-based treatment to alleviate the pain and fertility problems associated with endometriosis, a common gynecological condition in women of childbearing age.

Research led by Oleh Taratula of the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy and Ov Slayden of the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University used photo-responsive nanoparticles loaded with dye to find and remove the lesions associated with the disorder. The findings were published today in the journal Small.

The endometrium is the innermost layer of the uterus, and endometriosis occurs when endometrium-like tissue forms lesions outside of the uterine cavity – usually involving the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. On rare occasions, endometrial tissue may spread beyond the pelvic organs. Roughly 10% of childbearing-age women will experience endometriosis, and 35% to 50% of women with pelvic pain and or infertility suffer from the disorder.

There’s no cure, although surgical removal of the lesions can improve fertility. The downside, however, is that the lesions come back about half the time, and more than one-quarter of endometriosis surgery patients need three or more operations because it’s hard to find all of the diseased tissue that needs to be removed.

Taratula and Slayden, in a collaboration that also included OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, used tiny – less than 100 nanometers in size – polymeric materials packed with a dye that can generate both a fluorescence signal and cell-killing heat under near-infrared light. For doctors, that means it can be both an imaging tool and a lesion-removal technique.

“We believe that our developed strategy can eventually shift the current paradigm for endometriosis detection and treatment,” Taratula said.

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COVID-19 unlikely to be transmitted through semen, study shows

COVID-19 is unlikely to be spread through semen, according to University of Utah Health scientists who participated in an international study of Chinese men who recently had the disease. The researchers found no evidence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the semen or testes of the men.

The study was not comprehensive enough to fully rule out the possibility that the disease could be sexually transmitted. However, the chances of it occurring, based on this limited finding, appear to be remote.

The study appears in Fertility & Sterility, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. The international team of researchers from China and the United States launched the study in response to concerns that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could be sexually transmitted like Ebola, Zika and other emerging viral pathogens. To find out, they collected semen samples from 34 Chinese men one month (on average) after they were diagnosed with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. Laboratory tests did not detect SARS-CoV-2 in any of the semen samples.

But just because the virus wasn’t present in the existing semen didn’t necessary rule out that it hadn’t entered the testes where sperm cells are formed.

“If the virus is in the testes but not the sperm it can’t be sexually transmitted,” says Jingtao Guo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scientist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah who also co-authored the study. “But if it is in the testes, it can cause long-term damage to semen and sperm production.”

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Chances of having a second IVF baby after fertility treatment for the first child ‘favorable,’ says new report

Women have a good chance of having a second child with the help of fertility treatment after their first was child born this way, research out of Australia has shown.

Specifically, the study found that after a live birth using IVF, also known as assisted reproductive technology (ART), a woman’s chances of a second ART baby were between 51% and 88% after six cycles of treatment.

The study analyzed data from over 35,000 women and was published in the journal Human Reproduction. It’s the first published report that explored the chances of achieving a second IVF baby after a first IVF child. While the study presents population estimates and every couple is different, the researchers hope the new evidence can be used to counsel patients.

Dr. Christos Venetis, fertility clinician, Director of Clinical Research at IVFAustralia and a clinical academic from the research team, says, “As the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of non-urgent ART services are gradually being lifted in many countries, … many people are considering expanding their family through ART. This study can provide reassurance that – in most cases – the chance of them having a second baby through ART is quite favorable.”

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‘So thankful for Dr. Ziegler’s expertise and compassion’

A patient of ours offers her thoughts about the care she received at RSCNJ:

“Dr. Ziegler is extremely knowledgeable about what he does and provides comfort and reassurance during each visit and meeting with him. I am so thankful for not only his expertise but his compassion through difficult times. He personally called when things were not going right and quickly got me in so we could find a solution (which we did!). My husband and I cannot say enough wonderful things about our time at RSCNJ and with Dr. Ziegler. Highly recommend for anyone going through a difficult time conceiving and want someone who will treat them with care and importance.”

Thanks to her, and to all our patients who post their reviews of our care, which you can find on our web site.

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New podcast covers reciprocal IVF for lesbian couples

Same sex female partners who want to have a baby have a number of treatment options to help them conceive. In our latest podcast, Dr. William Ziegler discusses these options and the varying ways female partners can proceed.

Listen to the podcast here.

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We’re open–with virtual telehealth appointments!

We want to remind all our patients and prospective patients that we are open for your fertility care and that we offer virtual telehealth appointments for your safety and convenience.

Go to our Appointment Request page and fill out our short form to request a telehealth appointment with one of our providers.

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Accurate 3D imaging of sperm cells could improve IVF treatments, study finds

Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a safe and accurate 3D imaging method to identify sperm cells moving at a high speed. The new technology could provide doctors with the ability to select the highest-quality sperm for injection into an egg during IVF treatment, potentially increasing a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby.

The research, published in Science Advances, was led by Prof. Natan Shaked of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The most common type of IVF today is intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves sperm selection by a clinical embryologist and injection into the woman’s egg. “To that end, an effort is made to select the sperm cell that is most likely to create a healthy embryo,” Shaked says.

Under natural fertilization in the woman’s body, the fastest sperm to reach an egg is supposed to bear high-quality genetic material. “But this ‘natural selection’ is not available to the embryologist, who selects a sperm and injects it into the egg,” Shaked says. “Sperm cells not only move fast, they are also mostly transparent under regular light microscopy, and cell staining is not allowed in human IVF. We sought to develop an entirely new type of imaging technology that would provide as much information as possible about individual sperm cells, does not require cell staining to enhance contrast, and has the potential for enabling the selection of optimal sperm in fertilization treatments.”

The researchers chose light computed tomography (CT) technology for the unique task of sperm cell imaging. Using this technique, the researchers obtained a clear and accurate CT image of the sperm at very high resolution in four dimensions: three dimensions in the space at resolution of less than half a micron (one micron equals one millionth of a meter) and the exact time (motion) dimension of the second sub-millisecond.

“Our new development provides a comprehensive solution to many known problems of sperm imaging,” Prof. Shaked says.

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Jimmy Fallon and wife Nancy Juvonen open up about fertility struggles: ‘Don’t give up’

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and his wife, Nancy Juvonen, spoke to NBC’s Today Show about the difficult but ultimately rewarding process of fertility treatment and offered words of advice for others trying to start their own families.

“I think if anyone’s out there having the dream, do not give up,” Juvonen said, noting that nothing else can ever be as rewarding. “Because I realized, too, that unlike even becoming a multibillionaire, you can stumble upon a lottery ticket and win it and win the lottery — but you will not ever stumble upon a child that you can love and have as your family. So, don’t give up!”

To read the entire interview, go to Today.com.

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New way to assess male fertility

Current tests for male fertility include measuring the concentration and motility of spermatozoa. However, other characteristics of sperm, such as their ability to follow a chemical trail to the egg, can influence the likelihood of fertilization. Now, researchers reporting in Analytical Chemistry have devised a quick and convenient microfluidic chip to assess this chemotactic response of spermatozoa, which could help provide a more complete picture of a man’s fertility.

Sperm use chemotaxis, or movement toward increasing or decreasing concentrations of a substance, to guide their journey through the fallopian tube to the egg. Progesterone is present at high concentrations in the fluid that surrounds the egg, and previous studies have indicated that the hormone can attract and activate spermatozoa of some mammalian species. Scientists have used microfluidic devices—plastic or hydrogel chips with tiny channels through which liquids flow in a highly controlled manner—to study sperm chemotaxis. But the devices have had various limitations, such as the need for pumps to drive the flow of fluid, which could affect sperm motility. Researchers wanted to develop an improved, pump-free microfluidic device that could quickly identify small differences in the chemotactic behavior of sperm.

The researchers designed a microfluidic chip about the size of a postage stamp. The chip, which they made with an agarose/gelatin material, contained various channels and side chambers. The researchers created a concentration gradient of progesterone in the device from left to right, and saw that more boar spermatozoa added to the device swam to the right side chambers (high progesterone) than the left (low progesterone), which shows chemotactic movement. In addition to fertility testing, the device could be used to investigate other substances that could also contribute to sperm’s guidance mechanism, the researchers say.

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Doubts cast over accuracy of many popular fertility and pregnancy planning apps

Many popular fertility and pregnancy planning apps may be inaccurate, suggest the results of a review of the available evidence, published online in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

Despite their growing popularity, there’s little hard evidence to inform the use of these apps in practice, coupled with minimal regulation, note the researchers. And many apps seem to have been developed without any fertility specialist input.

The researchers included 18 relevant studies, published between 2010 and 2019 from 13 countries in their review. The data from these studies were then analyzed according to three main themes: fertility and reproductive health tracking (6 studies); pregnancy planning (4); and pregnancy prevention (11).

In terms of pregnancy planning, there is simply not enough published evidence to draw any firm conclusions, say the researchers, and what evidence there is, casts doubt on the predictive accuracy of these apps.

Several of the studies indicated that fertility apps can be successfully used as a means of contraception, but not all of them marketed for this purpose have been designed to include this feature, caution the researchers.

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