Sheffield fertility experts helping to make baby dreams come true

Sperm samples being processed in Sheffield
Sperm samples being processed in Sheffield
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Pioneering technology designed to help couples in Sheffield and beyond have children is to be showcased to the public next month.

Fertility experts from the city’s assisted conception unit will be demonstrating their pioneering time-lapse imaging at the University of Sheffield’s Discovery Night on Friday, March 13, between 4pm to 8pm.

Embryologists from the Jessop Fertility Unit will reveal the amazing structural cell changes an embryo undergoes within the first five days of its life.

The technology constantly monitors the development of an embryo, so embryologists can see at a glance if normal cell division does not take place.

This increases the chances of having a baby as only the healthiest embryos are replaced back inside the women.

Staff from the genetics team will also be on hand to demonstrate how DNA can be extracted from strawberries, and display 23 pairs of stripy socks to highlight the different types of chromosomes that carry all the specific information to help a cell grow and thrive.

Around 1,500 people attend the Jessop unit each year, with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust investing heavily over the past few years to ensure that the unit’s labs remain at the forefront of technology.

On Tuesday, March 17, the fertility team will be opening up their state-of-the-art labs between 2pm and 4pm to give 12 selected students from a local school a unique chance to see at a glance the technology in use.

The five purpose-built labs provide a safe haven for embryos, with specialists able to track samples through a radio frequency tagging system.

The laboratories provide a full range of assisted conception techniques including treatment with donor egg and sperm, using spare frozen embryos for future treatment after IVF, intrauterine insemination, or IUI - a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to assist with fertilisation. It also provides intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, when the embryologist selects a single sperm directly into an egg to improve the chances of successful fertilisation.

Rachel Cutting, principal embryologist at the Jessop Wing Sheffield, said: “Fertility problems are becoming more and more common, with one in six couples estimated to have difficulty conceiving.

“During Healthcare Science Week we’ll be highlighting how a healthy diet and healthy eating can help maintain and preserve fertility, and lifestyle factors that impact on fertility including low sperm count.

“They’ll also be a few marvels for patients and members of the public, including having the privilege to see the first five days of life and the work our scientists are doing in collaboration with colleagues at Weston Park Hospital to preserve fertility for cancer patients by freezing eggs for later use.”