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Eugin’s Basic Research Laboratory in the Barcelona Science Park (Photo: Eugin).

Eugin presents pioneering advances in fertility and human reproduction at ESHRE 2020

An analysis of the environment in which the embryos that become implanted in the uterus develop reveals a lower number of senescent (aged) cells than those that are not successful. This is the result of a study presented yesterday at ESHRE 2020, which has been led by researchers from Eugin’s Basic Research Laboratory, headquartered in the Barcelona Science Park. The group also submited at the congress another work –carried out with the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the collaboration of the National Center for Genomic Analysis (CNAG)– which reveals that the quality of the eggs can lie in the networks that create their genes.


Scientists from Eugin Group –together with Professor Jan Brosens, an expert from the University of Warwick, and PhD student Alexandra Almansa, a participant in the Industrial Doctorates Plan, promoted by the Government of Catalonia– have conducted a pioneering research in its field because it analyses the process of embryo implantation, which has scarcely been explored up to now due to the complexity involved in observing it.

However, in this study –presented at the 36th Annual Congress of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE 2020)– it has been possible to analyse in depth how the three main players in the implantation process of an embryo are related: the endometrium, the elements of the embryo and the cells responsible for regulating the amount of healthy and aged cells, and of eliminating the latter, the so-called Uterine Natural Killers (uNKs).

The findings show that the way in which a low quality embryo interacts with the remaining elements involved in the implantation process is different from the way a successful one does. In those cases, one of the main players, the uNKs, do not manage to fulfil their function and the embryo does not thrive.

Thus, the study highlights that delving into the biological activity of the uNKs in response to embryo stimulation is a determining factor in understanding human implantation and in continuing to move forward in solving infertility problems.

Eugin Group’s scientific director, Rita Vassena, explains that “this research brings us one step closer to understanding the mechanisms of embryo implantation in the womb, an aspect that we unfortunately do not yet know how to optimise in assisted reproduction treatments”. Furthermore, she pointed out that “the Eugin group’s mission is to provide its patients, and society in general, with ethical and rigorous research that is both capable of improving assisted reproduction treatments and of responding to the needs and challenges that currently exist with respect to fertility”.

Egg quality may lie in the networks that create their genes

Researchers from Eugin Group also presented at ESHRE another study –conducted together with a team from the Genomic Regulation Center (CRG)– which suggests that the quality of a woman’s eggs may be influenced by the networks that create her genes. The work was carried out using state-of-the-art computer applications and biocomputing techniques, thanks to the collaboration of the National Centre for Genomic Analysis in Barcelona (CNAG), which is integrated within the CRG.

The findings suggest that the quality of the oocytes lies in the functionality of the genes expressed in them, and how and how much they interact with each other. Thus, although no specific candidate genes have been identified as responsible for better or worse oocyte quality, we do see functional networks that can be altered by the state of maturation in which the eggs are found and, to a certain extent, by the woman’s age as well.

During the study, the quality of the eggs in women, both under and over 35 years of age, was examined using their genetic material. To do this, state-of-the-art computer applications and pioneering biocomputing techniques have been used in this area of research.

In this regard, thanks to the collaboration of CNAG, the genetic material has been analysed egg by egg, both for individual genes as well as groups of genes. To this end, the so-called RNA-Seq method has been used, a cutting-edge technique that has made it possible to read the molecules of the genes expressed in each egg and to make comparisons based on the established age groups.

Eugin’s scientific director, Rita Vassena, highlighteds that “this research is key to deciphering the reasons why the quality of the eggs is lower the older a woman is, which is a major issue due to the fact that, increasingly, the patients who come to our clinics are older and have a poorer prognosis”. In this regard, she stressed that “the collaboration of the scientific community is essential and has been shown in projects such as this, in which the merging of research and technology provides comprehensive results and allows us to meet the real needs of our patients, which is the primary goal”.