Centre for Human Reproductive Science

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Human Gamete Interaction and Signalling (R0172 / R0173)

Applicant:  Jackson C Kirkman-Brown PhD

As a human sperm approaches the egg it undergoes an event called acrosome reaction (AR), which is thought to be a pre-requisite for successful fertilisation.

In the body or in-vitro (in IVF treatment) this is thought to be induced by interaction with proteins of the zona pellucida (ZP), a sticky coat surrounding the egg.

Despite the crucial role of AR in fertilisation, the technical and logistic difficulties of undertaking experimental work have been such that almost nothing is known about what happens as a sperm moves through the outer egg coats.

In this project we will employ advanced fluorescent imaging (microscopy) techniques to examine in detail the events occurring as human sperm and egg interact, particularly with reference to concentrations of calcium which we know form a vital part of the signalling that occurs.

The data we hope to generate will give new insight into the very early events occurring in fertilisation which, once we know and understand should allow the development of new diagnostic and treatment regimes.


Derivation of GMP human embryonic stem cells

Person Responsible: Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown

Our proposed project will utilise surplus embryos generated for assisted reproductive treatment.

These embryos will be used to derive embryonic stem cell lines under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) conditions enabling them to be used for treatment.

Derived cell lines will be deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank for use by other researchers. In Birmingham we hope to use these lines to further characterise specific proteins which are crucial during fertilisation and early embryo development.


Genetic screening of the preimplantation embryo

Person Responsible: Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown

When embryos are produced by IVF, during the first few days after fertilisation when they are still just a few cells, one or two of these cells can be taken without affecting the health of a future child.

The reason to do this is to use genetic screening to check for severe debilitating illnesses or things which would cause a miscarriage and the associated upset. In an ideal world these can be avoided as IVF creates a number of embryos and so we could only pick those without problems to put back.

Currently one problem with these diagnoses is that in the early embryo not all cells are the same and the one cell that you take and sample may not be representative - you could make a misdiagnosis. Through use of embryos that would otherwise be disposed of we aim to establish clear and safe techniques to make an accurate diagnosis in these early embryo stages.

Back to research we have approved

Page last updated: 09 May 2014

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