My recent studies have focused on the molecular composition and organization of the mammalian oocyte with particular emphasis on the etiology of failed fertilizations in women. Fertilization failure owing to the inability of a sperm to ‘dock’ to the oocyte plasma membrane (oolemma) was a new finding in the field of assisted reproductive medicine (Van Blerkom and Caltrider, 2013: Van Blerkom and Zimmermann, 2016:2023) and subsequently recognized as a surprisingly common occurrence after IVF. We have shown that docking dysfunction is associated with large regions of the oolemma depleted of the ganglioside GM1. Current findings show that this fertilization dysfunction is chromosome-induced when located beneath the oolemma, which we suggest causes a focal disruption of ionic homeostasis that reduces ambient ATP levels and negatively affects fertilization associated proteins below the threshold required for robust sperm binding. At MCDB I developed a simplified, low-cost culture system for human in vitro fertilization treatment that has to date, resulted in the birth of several hundred babies for couples who could not afford the usual high costs common in typical IVF programs. The clinical studies were performed with my Belgian colleagues and highly favorable pre- and perinatal outcomes from a multiyear study have recently been published (Ombelet et al, 2022).The system and potential worldwide application, especially in low resource countries (Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, South America and Asia) are currently being evaluated by their respective regulatory agencies for exclusive use in government-sponsored infertility centers. The first African baby conceived using this system was born in Ghana. The system has received considerable interest and recognition, and the original prototype developed at MCDB (Van Blerkom et al, 2014) has been on display at, reconstitutand is now in the permanent collection of the British Museum of Science andTechnology.
basic and clinical embryology, infertility, early mammalian development
MCDB 3350 - Fertility, Sterility, and Early Mammalian Development
Spring 2018 / Spring 2019 / Spring 2020 / Spring 2022 / Spring 2023
Describes the production of germ cells, ovulation, fertilization, reproductive cycles, controls of reproduction, early development of the embryo, methods of contraception, and causes and treatments of sterility. Recommended for students planning careers in the health sciences. Recommended prerequisite: MCDB 1150 or EBIO 1210 (minimum grade C-).