What if I asked you to tell me the best moment of your life? You might tell me about the moment you got your first university degree or the moment of your first job promotion. I am sure, though, that most of you would tell me it was the moment when your child was born.
Allow me now to tell you a story about Julia. Julia is a woman who is 43 years old, and she was trying to have a baby for six years. However, every attempt ended in multiple implantation failures and three miscarriages.
The main problem that she had to face was her age, because at the age of 43, the chances to become pregnant are low and limited in time. For that reason, she had to rely on science, and by science, I mean In Vitro Fertilization (or IVF), in addition to genetic testing, which includes the removal of few cells from the embryo for the testing.
After three cycles of IVF, Julia finally had a chance to get pregnant and give birth to a child. However, misfortune again knocked on her door, since her baby was not growing normally. The doctors claimed that this could be a problem that might have been caused by this cell removal from the embryo during the genetic testing.
My PhD studies focus exactly on this genetic testing, aiming to improve it and minimize any potential risks that might influence the embryo’s health. Now you might ask me, “How are you planning to do that?” I plan to take advantage of everything that happens in real life, since we already know that the embryo is in constant communication with the mother.
This communication is achieved through extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are possibly participating in the dialogue between the mother and the embryo. EVs are spheroid structures secreted by the cells, enclosed by a lipid bilayer, and carrying a complex cargo enriched in proteins, non-coding RNAs, and DNA. These EVs are believed to be produced by both the maternal and embryonal cells and act reciprocally to influence the biology in maternal-embryo cross-talk. It has been also observed that EVs captured from conditioned culture media of viable human IVF embryos have an important role in the process as to how the maternal reproductive tract senses the viability of the embryos.
So, during my studies, I plan to collect these extracellular vesicles and analyze the DNA which they are carrying in order to get all the information that the embryo freely gives to us. The main goal of my studies is to improve this genetic testing, and by improving this genetic testing, we will be able to make Julia and other women like her happier.