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Human Reproduction and Development

Hugh Clarke, PhD
Paul Goodyer, MD

Research in the Human Reproduction and Development Axis is focused on the genetic and physiological basis of reproduction and infertility, and on the biology of development. Axis researchers focus on some of the major issues that affect society today, such as declining fertility rates, developmental disorders that arise during pregnancy, and the connection between environmental toxicants and reproductive failure.

A major focus of the clinical research of the axis is improving assisted reproduction. The Reproductive Centre has developed several novel methodologies in assisted reproductive technologies, including a new technique of oocyte cryopreservation, termed vitrification, which enabled women to preserve oocytes for future fertilization. Importantly, oocyte vitrification can also provide hope for patients with malignant diseases such as cancer, who need chemotherapy and therefore become infertile.

Researchers in the Human Reproduction and Development Axis are leaders in the field of spermatogenic stem cells. In the male, understanding reproduction with projects encompassing the determinants of the factors regulating germ cells develop from the spermatongonial stem cell to sperm. Specifically, RI MUHC investigators examine how environmental and therapeutic agents induce germ cell damage leading to infertility, cancer and/or defective spermatozoa that can transmit alterations to their progeny.

In the female, investigators in this axis practice in the Neonatal Units and the world-renowned McGill Reproductive Centre where they collaborate with fundamental researchers who investigate infertility in animal models and the molecular biology of development. Collaborations such as these result in development of groundbreaking medical treatments and procedures. The Reproductive Centre performed the world's first successful ovary graft, which is now available to patients at the MUHC. Such demonstrated ability combined with research advances is transforming the field of reproductive and developmental medicine worldwide.