Henrique Manuel Nunes de Almeida graduated in Medicine in 1984 at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, Portugal. He became specialist in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1995. In 1999 he obtained the PhD degree in Medicine, area Cell and Molecular Biology, with a study on the effects of ageing on the Inner zone of the adrenal cortex.
Currently, he is Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Faculty of Medicine of Porto University. There, and at IBMC - Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular of Porto University, he leads a group involved in the study of Stress and Ageing in Reproduction and is member of scientific committees of Master and PhD programmes in Molecular Medicine and Oncology.
He is member of the Editorial Board of the journal Microscopy and Microanalysis as representative of the Portuguese Society for Microscopy. He maintains clinical activities in Obstetrics and Gynecology at CUF Hospital, Porto, Portugal. Due to his qualification in basic and clinical science of Obstetrics & Gynecology, he is a collaborator of the fertility centre “Centro de Estudo e Tratamento de Infertilidade, CETI” in Porto, Portugal.
Category of “OOCYTE VIABILITY ASSESSMENT”
Project: Utilization of biomarkers in human cumulus oophorus cells to improve oocyte selection and ART outcome.
Female factors are still main causes of infertility. Some relate to identifiable clinical entities, others appear hidden under “unexplained infertility”, but both have impact on oocyte ability for fertilization. In addition, oocyte/embryo quality is determinant for the success rates of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), still unsatisfactory despite all the progress made along three decades. To improve these scant results, reliable biomarkers of oocyte quality are expected to replace current morphological criteria and offer new diagnostic tools and better results in infertility and assisted procreation treatments.
While such markers are not identified in blood, we are convinced that molecular analysis of the oocyte environment is the answer and cumulus cells, which immediately envelope the oocyte, are the key.
After our earlier recognition of specific antioxidant enzyme activity, we are working in a wider approach. The strategy is to prepare extracts of cumulus oophorus cells and test them for an array of genes focused in oxidative stress and oocyte secretory factors. Gene expression, quantified mainly by RT-PCR, will be studied in cell extracts from women having well defined clinical/pathological conditions and ART outcomes.
Genes with wider amplitude of expression will be assessed in a larger sample of control women or having a diagnosed female fertility disorder. Controls are expected to provide data for the age- or disorder-related variation in gene expression. This is important theoretical and practical information, regarding the well-known decrement in oocyte quality and fertility success rates associated to those conditions.
The work employs fundamental science methods to assess clinical problems, an approach that our research team has privileged for the past 5 years.