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Grant of Fertility Innovation

Lynne O’Shea

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Dr. Lynne O’Shea

 

Dr. Lynne O’Shea is Assistant Professor at Anatomy in University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, and Director of ReproIRE, an Irish Assisted Reproductive Research Consortium. She acquired her BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology in 2008 from UCD, and subsequently undertook her PhD as part of the UCD Reproductive Biology Research Cluster, where she studied both amphibian and mammalian model systems in order to elucidate molecular regulation of oocyte maturation. 

Following completion of her PhD, Dr O’Shea was employed as Research Lead at RotundaIVF, where she developed valuable skills in the field of human ART. This led the publication of several statistical analyses of factors affecting embryonic development during ART. In 2014 she was awarded an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, during which her research focused on validating the technique of ovarian tissue cryopreservation for clinical use in Ireland. 

Dr. O’Shea’s strong background in reproductive biology and clinical expertise in this area have allowed her to obtain competitive funding and develop strong national and international research collaborations. This has led to several high impact publications and the submission of a UCD invention disclosure, indicating candidate genes involved in developmental competence in oocytes and cumulus cells.

 

Project: Using a biomarker of oocyte quality to improve embryo selection during assisted reproduction

 

The ability of an embryo to develop successfully relies greatly on the quality of the oocyte from which it has been generated. Being able to accurately predetermine an embryo’s ability to provide a viable pregnancy prior to transfer remains a major obstacle in assisted reproduction. The identification of oocyte biological markers (biomarkers) indicative of a high quality embryo would allow for enhanced embryo selection techniques and improved clinical outcomes. 

We previously identifi ed Atrx to be uniquely associated with reduced oocyte quality induced by ovarian aging, culture environment and genetics (O’Shea et al., 2012). Importantly, Atrx was detected in the cumulus cells as being associated with decreased oocyte developmental competence, enabling a potential non-invasive method of detecting oocyte quality i.e. cumulus cell testing. 

The aim of this research project is to validate the potential of ATRX protein expression in human cumulus cells and/or granulosa cells as a biomarker of oocyte developmental competence in a clinical setting. Discarded and donated-for-research oocytes and cumulus cells from routine human ART, will be analysed, while embryonic development and pregnancy will be the associated endpoints for developmental competence. Parameters for which ATRX is an appropriate biomarker in a clinical setting will also be determined; patient age, hormone levels, antral follicle count and fertility treatment will be assessed as variables within the study. 

This analysis will allow us to underpin the molecular regulation of ATRX within the oocyte microenvironment, and how this mechanism of regulation is altered in the oocyte with reduced competence. Completion of this study will establish ATRX as a biomarker of human oocyte quality, where ultimately it may be used in a clinical setting to improve conception rates following ET.