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Programme

9.30 am - 10.00 am

10.00 am - 10.15 am

10.15 am - 11.00 am

11.00 am - 11.30 am

11.30 am - 11.45 am

11.45 am - 1.00 pm

1.00 pm - 1.45 pm

1.45 pm - 2.05 pm

2.05 pm - 2.25 pm

2.25 pm - 2.45 pm

2.45 pm - 3.00 pm

3.00 pm - 4.00 pm

4.00 pm - 5.00 pm

Registration and refreshments

(registration desk in Abacws - Room 0.34)

Welcome and opening remarks - 

Dr. Katerina Kaouri and Dr. Thomas Woolley

(InFer Network Leads)

Plenary talk - Giles Palmer

(Exec. Director, International IVF Initiative)

Plenary talk - Prof. Karl Swann

(Chair of Reproductive Cell Biology, Cardiff University)

Break and refreshments

GW4 Alliance - Partner talks

Lunch and poster exhibition

Talk - Prof. Eamonn Gaffney

(Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Oxford)

Talk - Andrew Thomson

(Laboratory Director, Avenues.life)

Lightning talks

Break and refreshments

Co-creation workshop

(work in groups on key IVF challenges)

Closing remarks and networking drinks

Cardiff University

Dr. Katerina Kaouri (School of Mathematics)

University of Bristol

Dr. Ahmed Elhakeem (Bristol Medical School (PHS))

Dr. Hermes Bloomfield-Gadêlha (Department of Engineering Mathematics)

University of Exeter

Dr. Margaritis Voliotis (EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare)

Kindly note: This event is in-person due to its interactive and participatory nature but arrangements to attend online can be made - please contact us to discuss further.

Speakers

Giles Palmer (Exec. Director, International IVF Initiative)

All that is wrong with IVF. Status and future challenges for assisted reproductive technologies

This lecture explores the present and future of Assisted Reproduction and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). It outlines IVF's current limitations and proposes enhancements through technologies like microfluidics, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT, cryobiology, genetics and metabolomics, creating improved embryo selection and “precision embryology”. Additionally, the lecture addresses issues within the profession of clinical embryology, encompassing recruitment challenges, increased workload, burnout, and the evolving global landscape of clinic conglomerates. It considers the concerns for better lab designs and the problem of the mounting inventory of stored frozen gametes and embryos, ethical concerns, and legal issues. Emphasizing scalability and consistency, the lecture underscores the need, through new technologies, to democratize IVF for wider accessibility and affordability. The presentation envisions a transformative future where the convergence of diverse disciplines revolutionizes assisted reproduction, ultimately fostering a more equitable and successful treatment for infertility and family building.

Prof. Karl Swann (Chair of Reproductive Cell Biology, Cardiff University)

Egg activation at fertilization and why it matters

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used in a majority of IVF treatments worldwide. The use of ICSI was responsible for a major improvement in overall success rates in IVF. However, whilst it is generally successful, fertilization rates after ICSI have only improved marginally in the last 20 years and this has implications for overall success of IVF treatments. ICSI failure is associated with failed egg activation which is probably due a lack of Ca2+ oscillations.  Sperm derived PLCzeta causes Ca2+ oscillations at fertilization and after ICSI.  I will discuss how we might be able to trigger Ca2+ oscillations in eggs using PLCzeta or other artificial strategies that promote mitochondrial activity in eggs. I will also point to areas where non-invasive image analysis or mathematical modelling might contribute to improving fertilization and IVF success rates. 

Dr. Ahmed Elhakeem (Research Fellow, University of Bristol)

Assisted Reproductive Technology and Health partnership

I will introduce the ART-HEALTH Partnership - a collaboration to examine effects of ART on offspring health. The mission of the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Health partnership (A.R.T-HEALTH PARTNERSHIP) is to provide robust evidence on the effects of pregnancy conception by ART, compared with natural conception, on mothers and offspring health from pregnancy through to early adulthood.

Dr. Hermes Gadelha (Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol)

How engineering, maths & robotics will revolutionize human fertility

In this 15min-talk I will introduce the work done at the Polymaths Lab at Bristol (http://www.polymaths-lab.com/). I will focus on the state-of-art technological capabilities developed to date applied to fertility, including, but not limited to, low-cost microfluidic chips and plastic microscope solutions, cheap non-invasive micro-manipulation techniques, mathematical modelling and simulation, AI and computer vision for automated image processing, all that can be used for both sperm and embryo real-time assessments.  We are a team of enthusiastic mathematicians, physicists, biologists and engineers dedicated to the study of fertility, entangling mathematics, experimentation and soft-robotics to improve fertility problem and assessment. We are keen to work with clinics and fertility experts wishing to automate data collection and better understand large volumes of data.

Come and have a chat, we might have just the right bespoke engineering solution for you!

Dr. Margaritis Voliotis (Research Fellow, University of Exeter)

Quantitative models in reproduction: from cells to organs to patients

Understanding the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (reproductive) axis presents a major challenge for medical science. Dysregulation of the axis is linked to infertility and a thorough understanding of its dynamic behaviour is necessary to both aid diagnosis and to identify the most appropriate hormonal interventions. Our intuitive understanding of the axis is hampered by its complex nature: it spans multiple levels of organisation (from molecular and cellular to organ and organismal levels); feedforward and feedback interactions run across these levels at multiple timescales (ranging from minutes to days); and there is complex crosstalk with other endocrine axes and the central nervous system. These factors necessitate mathematical and computational models to dissect the system's dynamical behaviour in normal physiological conditions or under acute perturbations and chronic disease. In this talk I will give an overview of the research undertaken by our team at the University of Exeter, including quantitative models to describe and understand the intricate dynamics of the axis, gain insight into its regulation, and aid clinical diagnosis of dysregulation. 

Prof. Eamonn Gaffney (Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow, University of Oxford)

Spermatozoan Dynamics and Computer Assisted Beat Pattern Analysis

Sperm flagellar motion is driven by the remarkable and phylogenetically conserved axoneme.  Despite the universality of this mechanism, our understanding of flagellar dynamics is still limited, especially in terms of its control and regulation. Nonetheless,  computational modelling can predict sperm swimming behaviour from flagellar data, as will be briefly illustrated by highlighting how modelling can simplify our understanding of how sperm respond to rheotactic (fluid flow) guidance cues. Furthermore, computer aided sperm analysis (CASA) has traditionally neglected the flagellar waveforms of motile cells. In this talk, we will thus proceed to demonstrate that a simple tool of machine learning -- dimensionality reduction via principal component analysis -- can be exploited for the classification of the sperm flagellum beat. In turn, we highlight how this facilitates hypothesis testing for sperm behaviours across and within populations, using information from the whole flagellar beat.

Andrew Thomson (Laboratory Director, Avenues.life)

Validation of two different artificial intelligence algorithms for embryo selection

There has been a growing interest in applying AI to embryo selection. However, there are multiple commercial AI algorithms available each with their own unique data sets and weightings of morphokinetic events. There are no current accepted standards and expectations for its performance and any potential AI system must be properly validated. We compare and review the accuracy of a number of AI models.

Dr. Ge Guo (Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter)

Studying human embryo development using stem cell models

Studying human embryogenesis is challenging, hindered by a lack of material and applicable techniques. Human naïve pluripotent stem cells (nPSCs) are the in vitro surrogate of pre-implantation epiblasts in the blastocyst. We have shown that uniquely in human the nPSCs retain extraembryonic lineage potency. This developmental plasticity has been capitalised to form the 3D blastocyst model, blastoid. Our blastoid model closely resembles blastocysts in cellular composition, topology and regulation of lineage specification. This model presents an unprecedented opportunity to study the regulatory mechanisms that ensure robust embryo development. I will discuss the features of the blastoid model and its application in our recent study of signalling regulation of cell fate specification in blastocysts.

We invite all IVF experts and other researchers interested in fertility research to register to our one-day event on IVF research. This is launch event of the new GW4 network inFer and will bring together:

  • Mathematical modellers, data analysis and AI researchers

  • Experimentalists

  • Clinicians

  • Industrialists

  • Policymakers

 

This will be a networking event like no other! Our aim is to improve the success rates of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) through interdisciplinary research and academia-clinic collaborations. Specifically, we will identify the key current IVF challenges and the people with the skills to tackle those challenges.

 

Plenary speakers include Giles Palmer (senior clinical embryologist, Exec. Director, International IVF Initiative) and Prof. Karl Swann (Chair of Reproductive Cell Biology, Cardiff University). There will be short talks by IVF experts, break-out sessions and informal networking. The possibility of giving a lightning talk and/or presenting a poster is available.

 

Please register by 19th September

 

We have some funds for accommodation and travel. We have to give priority to researchers within the GW4 alliance (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter).

 

We are looking forward to meeting you!

Venue

Room 0.34 - Abacws Building, Senghennydd Rd, Cardiff CF24 4AG

Organisers

Dr Thomas Woolley (InFer Network Lead)

woolleyt1@cardiff.ac.uk

Dr Katerina Kaouri (InFer Network Lead)

kaourik@cardiff.ac.uk

Abhishek Chakraborty (InFer Research Officer)

chakrabortya5@cardiff.ac.uk

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

We look forward to welcoming you at the event!

Organisers
Venue
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