The Need for Reproductive Biology and Its Technology Explained

Even though the world population is a staggering 7,6 billion, World Health Organisation statistics indicate that around 10% of women who have been involved in a stable relationship for five years remain unsuccessful, despite repeated attempts, in becoming pregnant. While the figures for male infertility remain largely unknown, the WHO regards infertility as a worldwide public health issue. It is the right of every human being to become a parent, so for those unwilling to adopt and unable to conceive naturally, reproductive biology has been providing a viable alternative since 1978, the year that saw the birth of the first “test tube” baby, following the work begun on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) during the ‘50s by Nobel Laureate Robert Edwards.

As well as the relief provided by IVF for couples experiencing difficulties with conception, there are some additional aspects of infertility and subfertility that are either currently being researched or have been proposed for future study. These include ways to help women who experience recurrent spontaneous miscarriages and various neonatal complications. One of the most urgent quests is for a means to prevent the transmission of STDs and HIV, a quest for which it is possible reproductive biology might, in the future, provide the key.

In the meantime, there are several techniques within this specialised discipline of medicine that are already proving invaluable to those experiencing fertility problems. The first and simplest of these is intra-uterine insemination or IUI. After collecting the sperm and preparing it in the lab, the prepared sample is inserted into the woman’s womb just prior to ovulation and may be undertaken with or without the aid of fertility enhancing medication. Its use tends to be limited to those without fertility problems, but who are single or in same-sex relationships, as it is less effective than other techniques used in assisted reproductive biology.

Of these, IVF is undoubtedly the best known and may be performed in one of three ways. The use of naturally produced ova was the method chosen for the world’s first IVF baby, but some women require assistance with ovulation. Conventional IVF employs drugs to promote the production of large quantities of ova in the hope that some will prove viable, while the latest trend is for a milder treatment using a lower dosage in the effort to promote quality rather than mere quantity.

In cases where the infertility problem is found to be with the male, reproductive biology provides an alternative procedure known as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In this technique, an embryologist removes the tail from a single, carefully-selected sperm and injects the remainder into a suitable ovum. Immature ova collected and then subjected to in-vitro maturation are often used when performing ICSI.

Sometimes, fertilisation or implantation may need to be delayed. For these occasions, a rapid freezing technique known as vitrification can be used to preserve sperm, ova, and embryos, further extending the scope of this important field. As a world leader in the manufacture of cell culture media, many of the products of Irvine Scientific are indispensable to the practitioners of reproductive biology. Equally indispensable, IEPSA is the local supplier of Irvine Scientific culture media and all other materials and equipment required by specialists in this field.

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