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Research and Development

IVF treatment was originally made possible only after many years of scientific research on sperm, eggs and embryos.  Although IVF success rates have increased slowly, they are still relatively low throughout the world.  It is vital that we continue research to improve success rates and increase our knowledge of early embryo development and abnormalities that can arise.  At Saint Mary's Hospital these studies are carried out with the University of Manchester and other centres in the UK, with government funding from the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health, the European Union, the NIHR, and with the support of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Comprehensive Local Research Network.


Clinical studies

We are currently involved in two clinical trials which you may be invited to take part in.  Please ask our research nurses for further details. 

1) TABLET:  a study of the causes of miscarriage and lack of implantation in IVF.

2)      HABSelect: a method for selection of sperm for use in ICSI.


Embryo Research

We may ask you during your IVF or ICSI cycle to donate to research any abnormal eggs or embryos which canot be used in your treatment.

For comparison, it is also extremely important that we study normal embryos.  These can only be obtained from frozen embryos which are not wanted for treatment and would otherwise have to be left to perish.

If you have frozen embryos still in storage but no longer wish to use them for your own treatment, you have the opportunity to donate them to another couple for their treatment.  If you do not wish to do this, we would like to ask you to donate them to our IVF research programme.

All embryos donated for research are used in the following projects:

  • To study why embryos develop abnormally in culture after fertilisation.  We are interested in learning how and why some cells in the embryo die or become fragmented during development and how some cells become different to one another.
  • To test different culture solutions used for embryo growth and development in the laboratory.  We would like to be able to improve culture solutions and allow embryos to develop for longer, perhaps replacing them on day 5 or 6.
  • To test new ways and new equipment for culturing embryos to make sure that they are safe before they are used for routine treatment.
  • To improve our knowledge of the way early embryos develop and implant in the wall of the womb.  This may help to tell us why only 1 or 2 of every 10 embryos replaced is able to implant and form a baby.
  • To make embryonic stem cells.  Each embryo is cultured for a few days in the incubator or microchamber, and then prepared for research by placing it in a solution that fixes the cells in position, or breaks them open to release their contents, allowing us to study them closely for other studies.  For some studies we will separate the embryo into single cells before studying them.

This research is strictly controlled by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).  It is not permitted to culture human embryos for more than 14 days, to carry out work on cloning, or to genetically alter embryos in any way.  Embryos donated for research will not be used in the treatment of other couples.


Research in Reproductive Medicine

Major aims:

  • To increase understanding of IVF/ICSI and embryo development.
  • To improve the IVF/ICSI treatment process.
  • To make stem cells for future treatment of diseases (regenerative medicine).
  • Only sperm, eggs or embryos which are surplus to your treatment needs and would otherwise be discarded are utilised for research.
  • Research is only undertaken with your written consent.
  • All research activity in this Unit is licensed by the HFEA (Licence number R0026 and R0171; Person Responsible - Professor Daniel Brison).


For any research enquiries please contact our Research Nurse (Tel: 0161 276 3296)


For further information:

Embryology Research: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/daniel.brison/research

Embryonic stem cell research: http://www.nwescc.manchester.ac.uk