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What to Watch for at ESHRE 2015

Alan Thornhill, Ph.D.
| Jun 14, 2015

There is something for everyone (well, everyone with an interest in genetics and infertility, that is) at the 31st Annual European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, 15-17th June 2015.

In fact, the action began well before the main meeting even started. Saturday June 13th, saw the launch event for the Global Fertility Alliance-  a new collaboration between industry leaders Merck, Illumina, and Genea Biomedx with the aim of bringing standardized, best-in-class technologies to IVF practices worldwide. In IVF clinics around the world, there are two things in common: the huge gulf in success rates between centres, and the wide range of ways in which IVF is performed, especially in the laboratory. The GF alliance aims to improve the consistency in assisted reproductive technology (ART) worldwide by addressing the need for more standardization of fertility processes. For Illumina, this is another important step towards establishing global standards in the growing market of fertility technologies and the ultimate goal of helping families.

Among the excellent pre-congress courses available on Sunday the 14th is one focusing on Reproductive Genetics entitled: Genetic and genomic mechanisms and markers associated with gamete and embryo quality. In a very exciting programme, highlights include mechanisms of aneuploidy in gametes and embryos, expression markers in embryos, and the technologies involved in preventing mitochondrial disease by spindle or pronuclear transfer in at-risk couples.   

Monday’s sessions include one on new perspectives on embryo scoring (Session 2: 10-1130, Lisbon) with speakers discussing the developmental potential of mosaic embryos (Elpida Fragouli) and the controversial, but intriguing relationship between chromosomal aneuploidy and embryo morphokinetics (Asina Bayram and Christina Lagalla). Another staple at ESHRE is the PGD Consortium Data Reporting Update (Session 9: 1145-1215, Coimbra)

Illumina's first Product Theatre at ESHRE entitled Next Generation IVF: Advancing Technologies to improve IVF promises to be an interesting session focusing on preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). An excellent trio of speakers will take us on the journey of pre-clinical validation (Dagan Wells) and adoption of Veriseq PGS (Illumina's Next Generation Sequencing solution for PGS, Ali Hellani) rounded off with a clinical perspective of the benefits PGS can deliver to improve IVF outcomes (Carlos Simon).

To reflect the growing adoption of PGS, Tuesday brings a session devoted exclusively to the subject (Session 33: What’s new in PGS? 1000-1130, Guimares) with presentations on the effects of culture conditions and patient characteristics on the incidence of segmental chromosomal errors (Samer Alferawati), low versus standard stimulation protocols on aneuploidy incidence (Tomas Escudero) and the possibility of detecting subchromosomal gains or losses in blastocoel fluid (Alessandra Pomante). On Tuesday afternoon, Session 48 (Genes in monogenetic disease and fertility: 1515-1630, Evora) addresses the successful approach of separating stimulation and embryo transfer using a freeze-all approach for PGD cases (Tarek El-Toukhy), detection rates following the increasingly common practice of carrier screening in a European population (Sarah Yarnall) and the presentation of more than 3000 genetic loci being implicated in female fertility potential (Emlyn Parfitt).

On Wednesday, Session 56 (Outcome after ART: Genes, Life-style, or Technology: 0830-0930, Coimbra) includes two fascinating talks– one describing epigenomic profiling of the human embryo (John Huntriss) and the other asking whether increased morbidity and mortality of ART offspring is associated with the underlying infertility problem itself or the methods used to overcome it (Liv Bente Romundstad). China is performing groundbreaking work in many areas of IVF, and not without controversy. In a parallel session (Chinese Society for Reproductive Medicine Exchange, Guimaraes) Jie Qiao presents work on whole genome and transcriptome analysis of single human oocytes and embryos.

Look out for our Illumina's booth at G38-F49. Each day we will hold Reproductive and Genetic Health Trivia sessions to win ESHRE membership and an interactive quiz hosted by Professor Alan Thornhill to win an instant mystery prize. You could also jump on the trend to post a "selfie" with the MiSeq- Illumina's bench top sequencer with PGS capability.

And watch this space for a summary of all the exciting developments and late-breaking news from ESHRE in my round-up blog, to be published on Thursday, June 18th.