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Past highlights

September/October 2016 issue 

Ramkumar Menon, Elizabeth A. Bonney, Jennifer Condon, Sam Mesiano and Robert N. Taylor, Novel concepts on pregnancy clocks and alarms: redundancy and synergy in human parturition in Hum. Reprod. Update (2016) doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmw022

With the present issue of Human Reproduction Update it is my pleasure to announce a new series of review articles entitled Grand Themes in Reproductive Biology and Medicine. The aim of these articles is to provide an all-encompassing overview of the most critical themes in clinical and basic sciences related to reproduction, authored by substantial experts in the field. These review articles have a special format permitting a more detailed discussion of topics with more illustration (and references) than regular reviews in the journal.

The current issue presents our first Grand Theme review on the mechanisms of human parturition. The article by Menon and colleagues presents a timely and critical insight to the topic, not only discussing the current knowledge, but highlighting gaps and proposing future avenues of research. In particular, Menon and colleagues describe the various clocks and alarms that actively control the birth process, an event at the centre of the reproduction. In human reproduction there is a surprising level of redundancy and number of synergistic processes in comparison to the other mammalian species. Foetal membrane senescence, endocrine clocks, inflammatory and mechanical factors are well coordinated as initiators and effectors of human parturition and their better understanding will allow new medical intervention to improve pregnancy outcomes.

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July/August 2016 issue

Timothy Bracewell-Milnes, Srdjan Saso, Shabana Bora, Alaa M. Ismail, Maya Al-Memar, Ali Hasan Hamed, Hossam Abdalla, and Meen-Yau Thum, Investigating psychosocial attitudes, motivations and experiences of oocyte donors, recipients and egg sharers: a systematic review in Hum. Reprod. Update (July/August 2016) 22 (4): 450-465 doi:10.1093/humupd/dmw006

In this issue of Human Reproduction Update, Timothy Bracewell-Milnes and colleagues systematically review the psychosocial aspects of oocyte donation. The review considers the viewpoints of oocyte donors and recipients, as well as those of egg sharers. Attitudes towards donor anonymity are discussed, together with the impact of recent legislative measure taken to monitor programmes. These data will be very helpful in counselling couples entering oocyte donation programmes.

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March/April 2016 issue

Viveca Söderström-Anttila et al., Surrogacy: outcomes for surrogate mothers, children and the resulting families - a systematic review in Hum. Reprod. Update (March/April 2016) 22 (2): 260-276. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv046

The current issue of HRU presents a systematic review from Söderström-Anttila and colleagues discussing surrogacy outcomes; outcomes for the surrogate mother, the offspring and the resulting family. This article is one of the most original reads on a ‘hot topic’ in reproductive medicine and covers all aspects of surrogacy. Söderström-Anttila et al. compared medical and psychological outcomes after surrogacy with other ART (or natural conception) pregnancies and found no major differences. While over 1795 articles were identified during the authors’ literature search, only 55 met their inclusion criteria highlighting the need for further, methodologically-sound, research, including the impact of cross-border surrogacy. 

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January/February 2016 issue

Petra L.Wale and David K. Gardner, The effects of chemical and physical factors on mammalian embryo culture and their importance for the practice of assisted human reproduction in Hum. Reprod. Update (January/February 2016) 22 (1): 2-22. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv034


In the current issue of Human Reproduction Update, Wale and Gardner review the optimization of laboratory procedures in assisted human reproduction, including recent developments to improve culture media formulations used in IVF. The in vitro environment of assisted reproduction contains many chemical and physical factors that are thought to negatively affect embryo development. As exposure to such stresses may be critical for embryonic and foetal growth, it is crucial to identify, and minimize, these various negative factors in the practice of human IVF in order to improve the outcome.

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September/October 2015 issue

Van der Jeught et al., The post-inner cell mass intermediate: implications for stem cell biology and assisted reproductive technology, in Hum. Reprod. Update (September/October 2015) 21 (5): 616-626. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv028

The post inner cell mass intermediate (PICMI) represents a great advance in the field of stem cell biology, with possible implications in the world of ART. The article by Margot van der Jeught et al. in the current issue of Human Reproduction Update is an outstanding review updating the world of experts in Reproductive Medicine. The complex mechanisms allowing the state of pluripotency are precisely described and the open opportunities for the use of stem cells are made available both in ART and for regenerative medicine.
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July/August 2015 issue

Marcia C. Inhorn and Pasquale Patrizio, Infertility around the globe: new thinking on gender, reproductive technologies and global movements in the 21st century in Hum. Reprod. Update (July/August 2015) 21 (4): 411-426. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv016

In the current issue of Human Reproduction Update, Marcia Inhorn and Pasquale Patrizio take a fascinating journey through global infertility, combining anthropology and reproductive medicine. Infertility affects 186 million people worldwide and remains a major social burden for women. Inhorn and Patrizio discuss the, possibly preventable, causes of infertility, describe the global distribution of infertility clinics and explore the development of the low cost IVF movement in resource-poor countries. This timely and original review comprehensively documents the global scenario of reproductive medicine.

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May/June 2015 issue

Victoria L. Yarbrough, Sean Winkle and Melissa M. Herbst-Kralovetz, Antimicrobial peptides in the female reproductive tract: a critical component of the mucosal immune barrier with physiological and clinical implications in Hum. Reprod. Update (May/June 2015) 21 (3): 353-377. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmu065

The comprehensive article by Victoria Yarbrough and colleagues reviews the functional presence of antimicrobial peptides in the female reproduction tract. The “first line defense” of the female reproductive mucosal interface provides protection from pathogenic invasion from the external environment, similarly to that provided by dermal and gastrointestinal tract mucosal surfaces. Limiting microbial invasion and modulation of local immune responses may be crucial in many physiological and pathophysiological reproductive processes; including embryo implantation, infertility, and associated assisted reproductive technologies, maintenance of pregnancy and pregnancy complications, together with inflammatory diseases of the reproductive tract. This emerging field will be of great interest to the reproductive medicine arena.

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Mars/April 2015 issue

Ana B. Crujeiras and Felipe F. Casanueva, Obesity and the reproductive system disorders: epigenetics as a potential bridge

Yanchang Wei, Heide Schatten and Qing-Yuan Sun, Environmental epigenetic inheritance through gametes and implications for human reproduction Julia Kopeika, Alan Thornhill and Yacoub Khalaf, The effect of cryopreservation on the genome of gametes and embryos: principles of cryobiology and critical appraisal of the evidence

in Hum. Reprod. Update (March/April 2015) 21 (2)

Epigenetics, literally translated as “above genetics”, is the term in biology referring to phenotypic changes induced by external or structural modification of DNA, without altering the DNA sequence itself. The current issue of Human Reproduction Update features three articles reviewing the importance of epigenetics in reproductive medicine and biology. Crujeiras and Casaneuva discuss the impact of epigenetically-induced obesity on reproductive function, while Wei et al., describe that environmental epigenetic changes in the gamete may be inheritable, resulting in diseases later in life, such as diabetes. Finally, Kopeika et al., highlight that the process of cryopreservation may create such an environment capable of inducing epigenetic changes in gametes. This series of papers highlights the importance of fully understanding the impact of epigenetics in reproduction.

Read the article of Crujeiras and Casaneuva>

Read the article of Wei>

Read the article of Kopeika>

January/February 2015 issue

ART and uterine pathology: how relevant is the maternal side for implantation? in Hum. Reprod. Update (January/February 2015) 21 (1): 13-38. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmu047

Daniela Galliano, José Bellver, César Díaz-García,  Carlos Simón and Antonio Pellicer

The article by Daniela Galliano et al. represents one of the largest reviews and is, by far, the most pertinent update on the fundamental question: how relevant is the maternal side for embryo implantation in ART? This outstanding search of the global literature assessed the current knowledge of endometrial receptivity in ART. Conclusions highlight the necessity for future studies to elucidate the real clinical impact of uterine and endometrial pathologies on ART.
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November/ December 2014 issue

Fresh versus frozen embryo transfer: backing clinical decisions with scientific and clinical evidence
in Hum. Reprod. Update (November/December 2014) 20 (6): 808-821. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmu027

Jemma Evans et al.

In the latest issue of Human Reproduction Update, Jemma Evans and colleagues discuss the clinical validity of frozen embryo transfer (FET) as an alternative to fresh embryo transfer. Evans et al. summarise existing literature, indicating that FET is associated with a reduction in the incidence of ovarian hyperstimulation, a better pregnancy rate and improved neonatal outcome. The data shown derive from an evidence-based approach and may influence the future clinical approach to IVF.

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September/October 2014 issue

Clinical outcomes following selection of human preimplantation embryos with time-lapse monitoring: a systematic review in Hum. Reprod. Update (September/October 2014) 20 (5): 617-631. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmu023

Daniel J. Kaser and Catherine Racowsky

Time Lapse Monitoring (TLM) is a novel technique allowing semi-quantitative evaluation of embryo morphology and early developmental processes. In clinical practice, correlation between several morphokinetic parameters and the prediction of implantation assists embryologists in the identification of top quality embryos. The rationale of TLM is incredibly fascinating. Although currently used in some clinical laboratories, the technique remains in the early stages of development and, as discussed in the review by Racowsky and Kaser, more data are necessary to confirm its clinically reliable use. Racowsky and Kaser highlight the need for additional prospective studies before TLM is adopted as a routine procedure in assisted reproduction.
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July/August 2014 issue

The dynamics of nuclear receptors and nuclear receptor coregulators in the pathogenesis of endometriosis in Hum. Reprod. Update (July/August 2014) Hum Reprod Update 2014;20:467-484

S.J. Han et al.

The article by Han and O'Malley in the July/August issue of the journal is the most complete review of genetic alteration, epigenetic variations and post-translational modification of nuclear receptors in endometriosis. Elucidation of these changes has identified possible new targets for the treatment of this oestrogen-dependent disease.

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May/June 2014 issue

Proceedings from the Third National Institutes of Health International Congress on Advances in Uterine Leiomyoma Research: comprehensive review, conference summary and future recommendations in Hum. Reprod. Update (May/June 2014) 20 (3): 309-333. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmt058

James H. Segars et al.
In the latest issue of Human Reproduction Update the review by James Segars et al. discusses the newest investigations on uterine fibroids. The most common benign tumours in women, fibroids have a huge impact on reproductive function. This update reviews the most recent basic, translational and applied advances, associating them with an update on clinical management of the uterine fibroids. New medical and non-invasive, surgical treatment regimens are also discussed in great detail.

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March/April 2014 issue

The relationship between gut and adipose hormones, and reproduction in Hum. Reprod. Update (March/April 2014) 20 (2): 153-174 doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt033 Alexander N. Comninos, Channa N. Jayasena and Waljit S. Dhillo The recent publication of Comninos et al., in the March/April issue of Human Reproduction Update describing the impact of gut and adipose tissue hormones on reproduction represents the best review on this topic in the scientific literature. The impact of undernutrition and obesity on fertility is of great clinical interest, influencing diagnosis and managment of infertility and sub-fertility. After 25 years of research it is very useful to summarize the mechanisms of action by which nutritional status influences reproductive function.

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January/February 2014 issue

The transcriptome of follicular cells: biological insights and clinical implications for the treatment of infertility in Hum. Reprod. Update (January/February 2014) 20 (1): 1-11 first published online September 29, 2013 doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt044 by Elpida Fragouli, Maria D. Lalioti and Dagan Wells
The search from follicular cells of a valid indicator of oocyte maturity, the ability to generate a good quality embryo and the capacity to establish a pregnancy has great value. The transcriptome of granulosa cells and oocyte-surrounding cumulus cells may influence, and be influenced by, the oocyte; in the future, some of these genes may potentially represent clinically useful biomarkers The goal of determining oocyte competence based upon follicular cell assessment merits further investigation.

Read the article here


November/ December 2013 issue

Antithrombotic therapy for pregnancy loss,Hum. Reprod. Update (November/December 2013) 19 (6): 656-673. First published online: June 13, 2013 doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmt019 by P.G. de Jong, M. Goddijn and S. Middeldorp

The review by de Jong and colleagues is a clear and useful update on the association between thrombophilia and pregnancy loss, a topic that has been widely explored. In reviewing the literature from the past 19 years, Jong et al. describe the pathogenetic mechanisms of and efficacy of antithrombotic therapy in reducing the rate of recurrent miscarriage. Early smaller studies reported good clinical efficacy of antithrombotic treatment. However, recent randomized controlled trials have not confirmed these early studies and demonstrate that antithrombotic therapy did not increase the chance of live birth in women with unexplained recurrent miscarriage. This update will be of much interest to those working on this topic.
Read the article here

September/October 2013 issue

Autotransplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue in cancer survivors and the risk of reintroducing malignancy: a systematic review, Hum. Reprod. Update 19 (5): 483-506 doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt020 by L. Bastings and colleagues

The topic discussed is highly current, of great interest to those working in reproductive medicine and oncology, and has relevant impact on women’s health. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation and autotransplantation in women with various forms of cancer is a procedure that is becoming diffuse worldwide. However, ovarian grafts from these patients may contain low numbers of residual malignant cells and lead to a recurrence of oncological disease. The systematic review by Bastings and colleagues identifies reassuring data on the safety of ovarian tissue autotransplanation in lymphoma and breast cancer patients. However, data suggests that it is advisable to refrain from ovarian tissue autotransplantation in women with leukaemia.

Read the article here


July/August 2013 issue

Placental protein 13 (PP13): a new biological target shifting individualized risk assessment to personalized drug design combating pre-eclampsia, Hum. Reprod. Update (July/August 2013) 19 (4): 391-405, doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt003 by Berthold Huppertz, Hamutal Meiri, Sveinbjorn Gizurarson, George Osol and Marei Sammar.

In the review presented by Huppertz and colleagues, meta-analysis revealed that a low serum level of placental protein 13 (PP13) in the first trimester of pregnancy is a predictive marker of later development of preeclampsia. Therefore, measurement of PP13 may help to identify women at risk of preeclampsia, a disease which is a major cause of foetal and maternal morbidity and mortality.
Huppertz et al. propose a therapeutic role for PP13 and suggest that preeclampsia could be prevented in women with low serum levels by pharmacological supplementation.

Read the article here


May/June 2013 issue

The longer-term health outcomes for children born as a result of IVF treatment: Part I–General health outcomes, Hum Reprod Update 2013 19: 232-243 by Roger Hart and Robert J. Norman

The longer-term health outcomes for children born as a result of IVF treatment. Part II–Mental health and development outcomes, Hum Reprod Update 2013 19: 244-250 by Roger Hart and Robert J. Norman 

The two systematic reviews by Robert Hart and Robert Norman in the May issue of HRU represent a real milestone in the longer term evaluation (beyond one year) of children born as a result of IVF. The reviews distinguish between general health and neurological/developmental outcomes, showing reassuring evidence with IVF. Some of the associations found are common in children born to couples with infertility. A possible association with cardiometabolic diseases in adults, and with depression in adolescence, needs to be addressed in future studies.

Read the first article here and the second article here

March/April 2013 issue

Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation for IVF: impact on ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer—a systematic review and meta-analysis,  Hum. Reprod. Update (March/April 2013) 19(2): 105-123  by Siristatidis C, Sergentanis TN, Kanavidis P, Trivella M, Sotirak Mi, Mavromatis I, Psaltopoulou T, Skalkidou A, and Petridou ET

The paper by Siristatidis and his group is a very clear analysis of the association between medication for ovarian stimulation in IVF and gynaecological cancers. There has been an ongoing discussion on this matter since the introduction of HRT many years ago prompted claims that the administration of exogenous hormones might be the cause of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Throughout the past two decades, several publications have investigated this association - with differing conclusions.
The present paper includes data collected from 109,969 women exposed to IVF and shows that IVF women have a higher risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer than general population. However, this association disappears when infertile women are used as controls.
The story is not yet complete, but this systematic review is a clear statement and supports the classic concept that infertility per se is a risk factor for some gynaecological cancers.

Read the article here