Coronavirus and pregnancy: What we know so far

Are pregnant women more susceptible to infection, or at increased risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, compared with the general public?

Are pregnant women with coronavirus at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes?

Can pregnant women pass the virus to their fetus or newborn?

The coronavirus situation is ongoing and ever-changing. The Centers for Disease Control has created a special web site to update the public as information is collected, and you can find the latest on the virus and pregnancy by going to the CDC web page.

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Our patients give us 5 stars!

With 855 reviews counted, we at the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey are proud to report an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars!

We want to thank everyone who took the time to post their reviews of our care and service. And we invite anyone looking for fertility care in the region to see what our patients have said. You can find our reviews on our web page.

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Researchers discover genes involved in infertility

Most cells in the tissues of most organisms proliferate through somatic cell division (mitosis). This is a continuous cycle where a single cell doubles its genetic information (chromosomes) and divides equally to create two copies of the original cell. In contrast, egg and sperm cells are produced through a special type of cell division called meiosis, which takes place in the gonads.

This process begins like normal mitosis but switches after some time to create four genetically dissimilar germ cells that have half the original cell’s genetic material. The mechanism that causes this switch has been a longstanding research problem and controlling it is an important, yet challenging, global issue in reproductive medicine.

Recently, a group of researchers from Kumamoto University in Japan set out to assess the proteins involved in meiosis to clarify its development. Using mass spectrometry, the group was able to identify a gene that acts as a meiosis on-switch, labeling it “Meiosin” (for meiosis initiator). The Meiosin gene has the extremely rare property of becoming activated only at a specific time — just before the beginning of meiosis in the gonads.

In animal experiments, the researchers found that both male and female mice became infertile if the Meiosin gene was artificially inhibited. Further analysis of the mouse male and female gonads clarified that the gene plays an essential role in meiosis activation. The Meiosin gene acts as a control tower that simultaneously switches on hundreds of genes for germ cell formation, and appears to be involved with infertility. The group expects that the discovery will be a big step forward for reproductive medicine.

“Our work shows that the Meiosin gene is the switch that turns on meiosis, the special type of cell division that creates eggs and sperm, and this includes the turning-on of hundreds of other genes in the process. However, the functions of those genes have not yet been fully elucidated,” said Associate Professor Kei-Ichiro Ishiguro of the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics at Kumamoto University. “We have high expectations that the processes involved in germ cell formation will be greatly clarified as the role each of these genes plays is discovered. If it eventually becomes possible to control meiosis, the benefits would be far-reaching for reproductive medicine.”

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Scientists reverse reproductive clock in mice

Researchers have lifted fertility rates in older female mice with small doses of a metabolic compound that reverses the aging process in eggs, offering hope for some women struggling to conceive.

The University of Queensland, Australia, study found a non-invasive treatment could maintain or restore the quality and number of eggs and alleviate the biggest barrier to pregnancy for older women.

A team led by UQ’s Professor Hayden Homer found the loss of egg quality through aging was due to lower levels of a particular molecule in cells critical for generating energy. “Quality eggs are essential for pregnancy success because they provide virtually all the building blocks required by an embryo,” Professor Homer said. “We investigated whether the reproductive aging process could be reversed by an oral dose of a ‘precursor’ compound — used by cells to create the molecule.”

The molecule in question is known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and the precursor as NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide). Professor Homer said fertility in mice starts to decline from around one year of age due to defects in egg quality similar to changes observed in human eggs from older women.

“We treated the mice with low doses of NMN in their drinking water over four weeks, and we were able to dramatically restore egg quality and increase live births during a breeding trial,” Professor Homer said.

This study was published in the journal Cell Reports.

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‘So kind and helpful’

There’s more to fertility care than just doctors. Your experience depends on everyone at our clinic, and our staff also receive high praise for their compassionate care. As one patient wrote recently:

“Domenica has been so kind and helpful during our second go at IVF and FET. She emails me right back, answers all my calls and many questions! She goes out of her way to make sure the appointment schedule works best for me.”

You can read more reviews like this, of our physicians and staff, at our web site.

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Antioxidant reverses BPA-induced fertility damage

From plastics to pesticides, it seems like every week delivers fresh news about the dangers of endocrine disruptors — chemicals in the environment that alter the body’s hormones and can lead to reproductive, developmental, neurologic and immune problems and cancer. Industry regulation and individual consumer choice can reduce exposure to such chemicals, but there are few options to counteract damage that has already occurred.

Now new research conducted in worms suggests a path toward changing that. A naturally occurring antioxidant known as Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, reversed most of the reproductive harms caused by exposure to the plasticizer BPA (bisphenol A) in Caenorhabditis elegans worms, according to a study led by the lab of Monica Colaiácovo, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

The findings, published in Genetics, provide the first evidence that at least some BPA-induced fertility damage can be undone.

Nevertheless, humans are not big worms, and people should not rush out and start taking CoQ10 as an anti-BPA agent without consulting a doctor, the study authors said. For one thing, the researchers used “very pure,” quality controlled CoQ10, while store-bought supplements vary in CoQ10 content and do not always contain the amounts stated on labels, previous analyses have found.

For the authors, though, the findings offer a glimmer of hope amid a flood of concerning findings. “When we uncover evidence of toxicity from yet another chemical, often there is a feeling of ‘Here we go again,'” said Colaiácovo. “But it’s important to see what we can learn from it. I want us to figure out solutions.”

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Did you know African American women are more likely to experience infertility?

Black History Month, each February, raises awareness of issues important to African Americans. One of those issues you may not know about is infertility.

A 2019 study in Conception and Reproductive Medicine reports that African American (AA) women are disproportionately affected by infertility in terms of prevalence, utilization of treatment and access to care. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, risk factors and pregnancy intent, a US population-based study showed that AA women ages 33–44 years are still two times more likely to experience infertility in comparison to Caucasian American (CA) women. And statistical trends have shown that infertility rates were increasing among AA women while simultaneously decreasing among CA women.

This racial disparity persists when it comes to pursuit of infertility care and success rates of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). “It is well documented in the literature that AA women usually have a longer duration of infertility before seeking care and they also pursue medical care for infertility significantly less often than CA women,” the study says.

Why not use Black History Month as a prompt to take care of your fertility health? If you are struggling with getting pregnant, give us a call. Our first phone consultation is free.

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Scientists discover ‘roadmap’ for ovarian aging

Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear. Now, scientists have discovered, in unprecedented detail, how ovaries age in non-human primates. The findings, published in Cell, reveal several genes that could be used as biomarkers and point to therapeutic targets for diagnosing and treating female infertility and age-associated ovarian diseases, such as ovarian cancer, in humans.

“This is the first in-depth analysis of ovarian aging at a single-cell resolution in a non-human primate model,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, one of the co-corresponding authors, professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. “We found that oxidative stress, the cellular stress that damages cells, is a key player in ovarian aging. This discovery provides valuable insight into the mechanisms by which ovaries age and eventually become infertile.”

The scientists compared 2,601 ovarian cells from young and old non-human primates, and identified gene activity patterns for every type of primate ovarian cell including ooctyes and granulosa cells, which surround the oocytes as they develop. The scientists then compared the primate data with granulosa cells from healthy women ranging in age from 21 to 46 years.

Two key antioxidant genes (IDH1 and NDUFB10) showed decreased function, as seen in the non-human primate cells. To better understand the connection between ovarian aging and the antioxidant genes, the scientists tested what happened to the human cells when the antioxidant genes were made non-functional. They found that without IDH1 or NDUFB10, the cells appeared old and similar to the old non-human primate cells. The results suggest that IDH1 and NDUFB10 play a critical role in protecting both human and non-human primate ovarian cells from cellular stress during aging.

“This study provides a comprehensive understanding of the specific mechanisms of primate ovarian aging at single-cell resolution,” says Guang-Hui Liu, co-corresponding author, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and former Salk research associate. “Our results will hopefully lead to the development of new tools to aid in the rejuvenation of aged ovarian cells.”

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New gene for male infertility discovered

At least one in five cases of infertility remains unexplained. Male factors contribute to about half of these cases and, much of the time, men lack a specific causal diagnosis for their infertility. Researchers estimate that genetics could explain up to 50 percent of these cases, but many of the genes involved in male infertility remain unknown. A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital identifies a genetic abnormality that may be at fault.

Investigators have found that a genetic rearrangement and variants affecting a gene known as SYCP2 are associated with low sperm count and report the first cases implicating the gene in four men with infertility. The team’s findings are published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

We hope that our evidence will contribute to this gene being in panels for diagnosis of male infertility,” said corresponding author Cynthia Morton, PhD, medical geneticist at the Brigham. “Infertility is a big problem for young people, and 40 to 72 percent of men lack a diagnosis. This means that we have a lot of gene finding to do.”

Morton notes that while the discoveries about SYCP2 may help inform diagnosis, implications for treatment remain to be determined. “A diagnosis can be therapeutic in itself — even if there isn’t something that can be done to correct it. It ends the search for the underlying issue and opens the door for enrolling in clinical trials,” she said. “And I believe there is good reason to be optimistic; we now have better tools for discovery and can begin on the path toward therapy.”

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Male fertility after chemotherapy: New questions raised

A pilot study conducted by Canadian researchers highlights the effect of chemotherapy on male fertility before and after puberty.

“It is often thought that cancer treatments for prepubescent boys will have no effect on their fertility because their testicles would be ‘dormant.’ But in fact, the prepubertal testis are not immune to chemotherapy that affects dividing cells and it is now well recognized that there can be long-term effects,” explains Géraldine Delbès, a professor at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Laval.

Delbès conducted a pilot study in collaboration with oncologists and fertility specialists from the McGill University Health Centre on 13 patients, all survivors of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma. Their results, recently published in the journal Plos One, raise important questions about male fertility and the long-term quality of life of cancer survivors.

Delbès is particularly interested in anthracyclines, which are used in the treatment of several cancers. The researchers show that these anthracyclines, which should have no long-term effect on the quantity of sperm, could potentially affect its quality. According to Professor Delbès, the use of anthracyclines is thought to be correlated with abnormalities in chromatin and sperm DNA over the long term. These abnormalities are often associated with infertility problems and poor embryonic development.

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