Organization profile

Organisation profile

Basic aims of the Follicle Biology Laboratory, led by Prof. Ellen Anckaert are the design and validation of new culture systems for ovarian follicles and unripe egg cells to establish practical, applicable strategies for fertility clinics.

Fundamental and pre-clinical research:

1) optimization of multistep systems for in vitro follicle activation, growth and maturation: mouse in vitro models for culturing ovarian follicles allow for the study of culture conditions and factors that influence the development of the ovarian follicle and determine oocyte quality. These findings are of particular interest for translation into the field of oncofertility. Due to the accessibility to the different growth stages under in vitro situations, it also provides a suitable model for the study of basic aspects of oocyte and follicle biology at the cellular and molecular levels.

2) optimization of in vitro oocyte maturation (IVM) systems for cumulus-oocytes complexes derived from small antral follicles: IVM is a new ART method with minimal administration of hormones to the patient. The oocytes are picked-up from very small follicles and need a prolonged culture condition to be developmentally competent. Establishing these new culture conditions, tested first in the mouse model, are key to improve IVM results.

3) epigenetic safety of oocyte culture: FOBI aims to discover potentially harmful epigenetic effects of oocyte culture that might lead to reduced developmental competence and affect offspring health. Experiments are performed in a mouse model and on donated human oocytes and embryos from healthy volunteers and consenting patients. The developed assays can be used for testing epigenetic safety of culture media and drugs and for assessment of potential harmful effects of metabolic disturbances and xenobiotic substances.

Clinical activities

In vitro maturation (IVM) of human oocytes retrieved from small antral follicles in minimally or unstimulated cycles and cryopreservation of in vitro matured oocytes in cooperation with Prof. Michel De Vos (Centre for Reproductive Medicine, UZ Brussel).

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