Another record-breaking abstract submission

More than 230 abstracts of original studies - from a record-breaking total of 1898 submissions - have been selected for oral presentation in Barcelona. A further 800 abstracts have been selected for poster presentation.

‘The number of abstracts submitted this year continues to break all records,’ said ESHRE Chairman Roy Farquharson. ‘For the past two years for Geneva and Helsinki we had around 1750 submissions, and it's now clear that no other meeting in reproductive medicine can command this kind of support year after year. It means that the ESHRE Annual Meeting is unequivocally the leading event in the field, the place where everyone wants to be.’

The Barcelona abstract total not only marks a record entry but also reflects the very high standards now required for oral selection. The acceptance rate for oral presentation is now around 12%, making the acceptance rate very similar to that of ESHRE’s flagship journal Human Reproduction.

As ever, submissions were refereed blind by a selection committee, which included, among others, the co-ordinators of ESHRE’s 14 Special Interest Groups. Selection for the oral or poster programme was dependent entirely on the committee's score.

The greatest number of abstracts were in clinical science, with embryology (285 total abstracts) now the most prolific. Female fertility (187 abstracts), andrology (157), reproductive endocrinology (148), reproductive genetics (104) and endometriosis (67) were very well represented. Of the 549 basic science abstracts submitted popular themes were again in embryology (118) and andrology (115).

All abstracts, which were submitted in the Human Reproduction format, were reviewed according to ESHRE’s standard procedure of screening and scoring. Screening aims to ensure that abstracts are designated to the correct topic category, while selection for oral and poster presentation is done solely on the basis of scores awarded by reviewers. The International Scientific Committee finally selected 235 abstracts for oral presentation from the 1898 submitted.

Not surprisingly for the host country - and a country too which is now Europe's most prolific in ART - the highest number of abstracts came from Spain (164 submissions), but China was close behind with 157 submissions. The ever-growing presence of China and Japan (123 submissions) in the scientific programme of an ESHRE Annual Meeting continues, a trend also reflected in submissions to the ESHRE journals. Other countries with abundant abstracts were UK (140), Italy (116) and USA (111).

The main scientific programme is now in place and its high quality begins in the very opening two keynote lectures. The subject and presenter of the Human Reproduction lecture are derived from papers with the highest number of full-text downloads during their first six months of publication in the journal. This year’s lecture will be given by Florence Belva from UZ Brussel in Belgium with a first report on sperm concentrations in young men conceived at least 18 years ago by ICSI.

But the star of Monday's opening show will certainly be the Japanese stem cell biologist Katsuhiko Hayashi, whose 2016 paper reported for the first time the full cycle of germline development from pluripotent stem cells. The report in Nature described the series of experiments which, via the generation of mature mouse oocytes in culture from embryonic stem cells and from iPS cells, culminated in the uterine transfer of lab-created embryos and the birth of healthy mouse pups. In earlier work, Hayashi and colleagues had generated healthy mouse pups by maturing fibroblast-derived oocytes inside the mouse mother. In this new work the maturation took place entirely (and remarkably) in a laboratory dish, suggesting that 'the platform', as Hayashi described it in Nature, might one day be applicable in humans.
The group was also able to derive new embryonic stem cell lines from the blastocysts generated from the lab-made oocytes - which thus completed the full cycle of female germ cell development exclusively in the lab. Hayashi's lecture in Barcelona is titled 'Oocytes from stem cells and back'.