21 October 2020

Virtus Health invests in endometrial function research to improve IVF outcomes

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Melbourne IVF fertility specialist Dr Wan Tinn Teh has been selected to present her new PhD research in the form of a poster abstract, at this year’s American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) annual congress, one of the world’s largest reproductive medicine events.

The research, funded by Melbourne IVF (Virtus Health), NHMRC and RANZCOG studied the activity of genes in the uterine lining (the endometrium).

Dr Teh explains that ongoing endometrium research is very important to improving IVF success rates.

“If you put an embryo into an endometrium which is not ready, it’s not going to successfully attach,” said Dr Teh.

During her PhD, Dr Teh developed a molecular model for timing human endometrial development during the menstrual cycle and used this to study genetic and genomic determinants of uterine receptivity. She also analysed IVF practices for improving uterine receptivity, including embryo freezing and endometrial scratch.

Dr Teh explains why the endometrium is difficult to study and the importance of endometrial research.

“Unlike eggs, sperms and embryos which can be studied under a microscope outside the body, the endometrium is difficult to study because it is inside the body and therefore getting the sample is difficult. That is why understanding of the endometrium has not progressed as much as embryo research,” said Dr Teh.

“This is why I chose to study endometrial gene expression as endometrial receptivity is a vitally important part of IVF and I wanted to contribute to the understanding and the innovative science of the endometrium. It also gave me the opportunity to work with Professor Peter Rogers from the University of Melbourne who has been studying endometrial function for many decades.”

Dr Teh explains that her research studying gene expression in the endometrium as a whole did not identify gene markers for pathology. 

“The research compared gene expression of the endometrium between women who have been pregnant versus women who have had re-current implantation failure. The research did not find significant gene expression difference between the two groups of women.

“The main clinical implications from this study is that re-current implantation failure can be due to many different factors, it has to be treated with individualised and personalised care, and unfortunately there is no one test for everyone at this stage.

“This new research won’t change clinical practice immediately; however it will serve as a very important stepping-stone. As gene expression technology is emerging rapidly, it will help us understand the endometrium better in the future – leading to development of new approaches for the diagnoses and treatment of recurrent implantation failure.” said Dr Teh.
Dr Teh also explains her ongoing research plans to study endometrium. 

“I plan to continue gene expression study on endometrium, using a more specific approach by studying individual cells in the endometrium,” said Dr Teh.

Dr Teh said this research is another project from Melbourne IVF’s large ART research program, helping to explore and improve our clinical practice, aiming to find new ways to improve patient outcomes.

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