Reproductive biology

General line of research

In vivo, the oocyte matures in the follicle, meets the sperm and the embryo starts to cleave in the oviduct before it continues to develop and implant in the uterus.

During in vitro fertilization and culture of the embryo, many conditions are not optimal yet. Here, we focus on how these suboptimal conditions are impacting on mammalian oocyte and sperm quality and embryo development and how we can improve the final outcome, using the bovine as a model for human.

We focus on five contemporary basic research questions :

  1. How can extracellular vesicles affect oocyte and embryo quality and implantation?
  2. Can oocyte- or embryo-derived extracellular vesicles and their contents serve as biomarkers ?
  3. How is chromosomal integrity of the embryo affected by suboptimal environment?
  4. Can we reverse oocyte ageing, as seen in women of advanced maternal age?
  5. How is heat stress affecting male reproduction ?

We are also collaborating with other disciplines to make the embryo production system more automated, by using machine learning and microfluidics.

We have ongoing collaborations on wildlife mammalian reproduction and gamete cryopreservation.

Current Postdocs

  • Krishna Pavani PD: Identification of biomarkers of human implantation in embryo-secreted vesicles
  • Guilherme Rizzoto PD: Heat stress in bull semen, extracellular vesicles and miRNas
  • Guillaume Domain PD: Improvement of semen cryobanking in dogs

Current doctorates

  • Annelies Raes : Non-invasive markers of bovine oocyte and embryo quality  
  • Camilla Benedetti : miRNAs can affect bovine oocyte maturation and embryo quality
  • Andrea Fernandez : Polyspermic embryos : origin, prevalence and prevention during bovine in vitro fertilization
  • Penelope Banchi : The genital microbiome in pregnant dogs and cats and the canine seminal microbiome
  • Lotte Spanoghe : The vaginal microbiome in dogs and its relation to fertility
  • Haitao Li : Presence of epigenetic markers and miRNAs in human embryos in relation with pregnancy outcome
  • Qurratulain Amin : miRNAs and bovine embryo development
  • Tim Huijsmans : The key role of maternal investment versus survival strategies in mammalian reproduction

Completed doctorates