The research group Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry concentrates its academic scientific research within the Gameter Research Center, a platform where the female gamete, the embryo and the early embryonic development have a central position.
More specifically, (environmental) factors are studied that might have a (negative) influence on oocyte developmental capacity and embryo growth, including possible consequences during pregnancy, for the newborn and in later life. Most of this research is based on self-developed ''high throughput'' in vitro models, such as bovine, murine and zebrafish in vitro models for the study of follicular development, oocyte prematuration and maturation, fertilization and in vitro embryo culture.
Within the framework of the Gamete Research Center, 3 topics are addressed more specifically.
- First of all, ''Reprotox'' within which the above mentioned models are used to study the influence of (environmental) toxicants on the quality of the developing in vitro embryo. Embryo quality is assessed by immunohistochemical techniques, as well as advanced micro-array technology to study gene expression patterns in early embryos. In addition, ''genomics'' studies are complemented by the study of cellular metabolism (''metabolomics'').
- Secondly, ''Fertility Preservation'', the study of factors influencing female fertility and methods to preserve and/or reinstall fertility. More specifically, pre-antral follicular dynamics are studied including possible damaging conditions, such as radiotherapy, and preservation strategies (slow freezing, solid surface vitrification, gamete banking).
- Finally, the link ''Embryo¬maternal metabolism'' is included as a third research topic. The physiological condition of the dam at the moment of conception proved to be crucial for the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy. Several metabolic disorders such as hyperlipidaemia, showed to have direct negative consequences on oocyte quality and embryonic developmental competence.
We consider our animal models, combined to the in vitro platform, as the ideal tools to study maternal metabolic factors that influence the quality of the human oocyte and embryo.