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Publication History View all

  • BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 11/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Morphological assessments are the main way in which fertility clinics select in vitro generated embryo(s) for transfer to the uterus. However, it is widely acknowledged that the microscopic appearance of an embryo is only weakly correlated with its viability. Furthermore, the extent to which morphology is affected by aneuploidy, a genetic defect common in human preimplantation embryos, remains unclear. Aneuploidy is of great relevance to embryo selection as it represents one of the most important causes of implantation failure and miscarriage. The current study aimed to examine whether morphological appearance can assist in identifying embryos at risk of aneuploidy. Additionally, the data produced sheds light on how chromosomal anomalies impact development from the cleavage to the blastocyst stage. A total of 1213 embryos were examined. Comprehensive chromosome analysis was combined with well-established criteria for the assessment of embryo morphology. At the cleavage stage, chromosome abnormalities were common even amongst embryos assigned the best morphological scores, indicating that aneuploidy has little effect on microscopic appearance at fixed time-points up until day-3 of development. However, at the blastocyst stage aneuploidies were found to be significantly less common among embryos of optimal morphological quality, while such abnormalities were overrepresented amongst embryos considered to be of poor morphology. Despite the link between aneuploidy and blastocyst appearance, many chromosomally abnormal embryos were able to achieve the highest morphological scores. In particular, blastocysts affected by forms of aneuploidy with the greatest capacity to produce clinical pregnancies (e.g. trisomy 21) were indistinguishable from euploid embryos. The sex ratio was seen to be equal throughout preimplantation development. Interestingly, however, females were overrepresented amongst the fastest growing cleavage-stage embryos, whereas a sex-related skew in the opposite direction was noted for the most rapidly developing blastocysts. In summary, this study confirms that, at the cleavage stage, chromosome abnormalities have little if any effect on morphological scores assigned using traditional criteria. At the blastocyst stage some forms of aneuploidy begin to affect microscopic appearance, but in most instances the impact is subtle. In the case of the most clinically relevant aneuploidies (those capable of forming a pregnancy) there was no detectable effect on morphology at any preimplantation stage.
    Molecular Human Reproduction 11/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Cell injury releases actin, the most abundant cell protein. Gelsolin and vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) together depolymerise and clear cell-free actin. Impaired actin clearance is associated with several diseases and correlates with clinical outcome. The actin scavenging system was investigated in pre-eclampsia (PE), a procoagulant and proinflammatory state with placental and vascular damage. Plasma gelsolin and actin free VDBP (AFVDBP) were measured in PE (early onset <33weeks; late onset ≥36weeks), matched normal pregnant (normP) and non-pregnant (nonPr) women, using commercially available ELISAs. Longitudinal samples from normP and women who subsequently developed PE were also analysed. Plasma gelsolin fell during pregnancy (p=0.0002), with a concomitant rise in actin-free VDBP (p<0.001). Gelsolin concentrations were only significantly lower in established PE (p<0.05) when compared to non-pregnant controls. We have shown that the components of the actin clearance system, gelsolin and AFVDBP, are altered in normal pregnancy and further changes occur in established PE, suggesting depleted actin clearance in PE. Whether this is a cause or consequence of PE pathophysiology requires further investigation.
    European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Preeclampsia remains a significant obstetric risk worldwide. The pathophysiology of preeclampsia is complex, with multiple stages involving maladaptations in both placental and maternal physiology. The placenta links the pre-clinical stage of impaired remodeling of the uterine vasculature, occurring in early pregnancy, to the later clinical stages characterised by the maternal syndrome of hypertension and proteinuria. This review focuses on some of the recent candidates for the missing links in this process.
    Current Hypertension Reports 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND Oocyte maturation is under strict regulatory control, not only from intrinsic cellular processes, but also extrinsic influences. While the oocyte is directly connected to the surrounding cumulus cells (CCs) via a network of gap junctions facilitating communication and exchange of molecules, it is also influenced by the greater follicular environment. In order to produce an oocyte capable of successfully transmitting the female genetic material and able to support the earliest stages of preimplantation development, cytoplasmic and nuclear maturation must be achieved. Granulosa and CCs play an essential role in the maturation and competence acquisition of the developing oocyte. The fact that these cells are closely associated with the oocyte, share the same microenvironment and can be easily collected during IVF procedures makes them attractive targets for basic research and the development of clinically relevant assays. Analysis of follicular cells is likely to reveal important information concerning the viability and genetic constitution of their associated oocyte, as well as increase our understanding of normal follicular processes and the impact of disorders or of medical interventions such as controlled ovarian stimulation (COS). This review summarizes results obtained during the investigation of granulosa and CCs, and considers the possibilities of using follicular cells as surrogate markers of stimulation response during IVF, oocyte/embryo competence and clinical outcome.METHODS In order to summarize the current knowledge obtained from the analysis of follicular cells, a thorough literature search was carried out. Relevant research articles published in English up to March 2013 were reviewed.RESULTSMultiple groups of genes expressed in follicular cells have been identified as possible indicators of ovulation, oocyte maturity, fertilization, chromosome status, ability to generate embryos capable of reaching the blastocyst stage of development, embryo morphology and the establishment of a pregnancy. However, there is a general lack of uniformity concerning groups of gene biomarkers among different studies.CONCLUSIONS Extensive investigation of genes and proteins of granulosa and CCs has provided a detailed insight into the follicular microenvironment surrounding oocytes. It was evident from the data reviewed that the gene expression of follicular cells influences and is influenced by the oocyte, affecting factors such as maturity, chromosomal constitution, viability and competence. However, a general lack of overlap among genes identified as potentially useful biomarkers suggests that the transcriptome of follicular cells could be affected by multiple intrinsic factors, having to do with the patient and possibly the aetiology of infertility, as well as extrinsic factors, such as hormonal stimulation. Further work is required in order to establish a universally applicable, non-invasive test for the determination of oocyte competence based upon follicular cell assessment.
    Human Reproduction Update 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Fetal femur volume (FV) is a useful marker of skeletal growth. Our objective was to create a normal FV chart in a cohort of healthy pregnant women and to assess FV repeatability. A prospective, observational study using 3D ultrasound. Low-risk pregnant women underwent serial scans from 14 to 42 weeks. Strict inclusion and exclusion criteria were used in order to remove pathological conditions. Pregnancies were dated by last menstrual period, confirmed by crown-rump length. FV was measured using three linear measurements and a volume equation. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling. Repeatability was assessed using within-subject coefficients of variation (CV), intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) and Bland-Altman plots. 180 women underwent 868 scans, a median of 5 scans per participant. Median and centile values were presented in the form of curves, regression equations and table of values per completed week. Intraobserver CV and ICC were 10.5% and 0.977 respectively; interobserver CV and ICC were 16.8% and 0.923. This normal FV chart can be used as a prescriptive standard in order to assess fetal skeletal growth. Measurement repeatability is satisfactory for clinical use, but FV has a larger random error than commonly seen with standard 2D biometry. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Prenatal Diagnosis 07/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Elevated triglycerides are a feature of the metabolic syndrome, maternal obesity, maternal vasculitis (i.e. systemic lupus erythematosus) and diabetes mellitus. These conditions are all known risk factors for pre-eclampsia. Hypertriglyceridaemia therefore may be associated with pre-eclampsia and indeed this may precede the presence of overt disease. In this study we determine the association between hypertriglyceridaemia and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, Excerpta Medica Database, ISI Web of Knowledge, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane Library from inception until June 2012 and reference lists of relevant studies. Two reviewers independently selected studies on pregnant women where triglycerides were measured and women were followed up until the development of pre-eclampsia or selected on the basis of presence of pre-eclampsia and compared with controls. We collected and meta-analysed the weighted mean differences (WMDs) of triglyceride levels from individual studies using a random effects model. We found strong evidence from meta-analysis of 24 case-control studies (2720 women) that pre-eclampsia is associated with higher levels of serum triglycerides (WMD 0.78 mmol/l, 95% confidence interval 0.6-0.96, P < 0.00001). This finding is also confirmed in five cohort studies, that recruited 3147 women in the second trimester before the onset of pre-eclampsia, which proves that hypertriglyceridaemia precedes the onset of pre-eclampsia (WMD 0.24 mmol/l, 95% confidence interval 0.13-0.34, P < 0.0001). Hypertriglyceridaemia is associated with and precedes the onset of pre-eclampsia. Further research should focus on defining the prognostic accuracy of this test to identify women at risk and the beneficial effect of triglyceride-lowering therapies in pregnancy.
    BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 07/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The primary aim of the INTERGROWTH-21st Project is to construct new, prescriptive standards describing optimal fetal and preterm postnatal growth. The anthropometric measurements include the head circumference, recumbent length and weight of the infants, and the stature and weight of the parents. In such a large, international, multicentre project, it is critical that all study sites follow standardised protocols to ensure maximal validity of the growth and nutrition indicators used. This paper describes in detail the anthropometric training, standardisation and quality control procedures used to collect data for these new standards. The initial standardisation session was in Nairobi, Kenya, using newborns, which was followed by similar sessions in the eight participating study sites in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Kenya, Oman, UK and USA. The intraobserver and inter-observer technical error of measurement values for head circumference range from 0.3 to 0.4 cm, and for recumbent length from 0.3 to 0.5 cm. These standardisation protocols implemented at each study site worldwide ensure that the anthropometric data collected are of the highest quality to construct international growth standards.
    British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 07/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the clinical importance of aneuploidy, surprisingly little is known concerning its impact during the earliest stages of human development. This study aimed to shed light on the genesis, progression, and survival of different types of chromosome anomaly from the fertilized oocyte through the final stage of preimplantation development (blastocyst). 2,204 oocytes and embryos were examined using comprehensive cytogenetic methodology. A diverse array of chromosome abnormalities was detected, including many forms never recorded later in development. Advancing female age was associated with dramatic increase in aneuploidy rate and complex chromosomal abnormalities. Anaphase lag and congression failure were found to be important malsegregation causing mechanisms in oogenesis and during the first few mitotic divisions. All abnormalities appeared to be tolerated until activation of the embryonic genome, after which some forms started to decline in frequency. However, many aneuploidies continued to have little impact, with affected embryos successfully reaching the blastocyst stage. Results from the direct analyses of female meiotic divisions and early embryonic stages suggest that chromosome errors present during preimplantation development have origins that are more varied than those seen in later pregnancy, raising the intriguing possibility that the source of aneuploidy might modulate impact on embryo viability. The results of this study also narrow the window of time for selection against aneuploid embryos, indicating that most survive until the blastocyst stage and, since they are not detected in clinical pregnancies, must be lost around the time of implantation or shortly thereafter.
    Human Genetics 04/2013;
  • Human Reproduction 03/2013;
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