Reproductive biology

General line of research

The current research of the reproductive biology unit is focused on three lines. We use a comparative approach in several mammalian species (cattle, horse, dog, cat, pig and human)

  1. The embryo or gamete and its environment
  2. Cryopreservation of embryos and gametes
  3. From stem cell to oocyte and embryo

Current doctorates

Introducing belgian blue cattle in indonesia

Since Indonesian Government imported several frozen semen and embryos of Belgian Blue from Belgium to improve the meat quality and quantity in Indonesia,  there are a nice and big homework to evaluate them for a good future of BB in Indonesia. 

The aim of the project is to study about the growth and the development of Belgian Blue breed in Indonesia comparing with the breed in their original place, Belgium. 

It will include several parameters, like their conception rate (CR), calf growth, until their potential to breed with Indonesian Local cattle regarding with many differences in their feed intake, climates, humidity between Indonesia and Belgium,  as well as other key factors.

From this research, it really hope that it will become a good references especially for Indonesia and other developing countries to breed a Belgian Blue for fulfill their meat demand.

drs. Gretania Residiwati


Role of extracellular vesicles in in vitro produced bovine embryos

In the absence of the maternal tract, preimplantation bovine embryos cultured in a group are able to promote their own development in vitro by releasing autocrine embryotropins. Recent studies indicate that among autocrine secreted factors extracellular vesicles play a prominent role in communication.

Extracellular vesicles are membrane-bound vesicles that are found in biological fluids and in culture media conditioned by embryos or cells. They carry and transfer regulatory molecules, such as microRNAs, mRNAs, lipids, and proteins. So the aim of my research is focusing on extracellular vesicles and its possible role in embryo communication.

drs. Krishna Pavani


Effect of extracellular vesicles from preovulatory follicular fluid during oocyte maturation on embryo development

At present, the fertility and developmental competence of in vitro-matured oocytes are lower than that of in vivo-matured oocytes. Therefore, it is important to improve in vitro maturation conditions and we want to study the effect of extracellular vesicles from preovulatory follicular fluid during oocyte maturation on embryo development because they contain many important factors like hormones, proteins, mRNAs, miRNAs and so on. Therefore, they may affect oocyte maturation and improve the development rate of embryos and fertility in animals and humans.​

drs. Nima Azari Dolatabad​


Equine oocyte cryopreservation

Vitrification of oocytes is a process by which the cells are preserved at subzero temperatures allowing store samples for extended periods, it is the only technique that allows to truly safeguard genetics of the female and that is why we are working on different strategies to increase the efficiency of it

drs. Daniel Angel Velez


Long-term effects of signaling molecules during bovine oocyte maturation in vitro: from research to clinical practice

Artificial reproductive technologies have become part of modern-day livestock management. In vitro production of bovine embryos is one of them: after in vitro oocyte maturation, fertilization and embryo culture, the resulting embryos are transferred into a recipient cow, resulting in the birth of an IVP-calf. The goal of this project is to find innovative methods to improve the efficiency of the in vitro production protocol, focusing on oocyte maturation. We also aim to identify and reduce any epigenetic instabilities caused by in vitro procedures by comparing embryos & calves from different origin (in vivo vs. in vitro).

drs. Annelies Raes


Improvement of semen cryopreservation

PhD student in the field of dog reproduction, I am working on the improvement of semen cryopreservation. I study the seminal plasma composition of dogs (extracellular vesicles (EVs) and proteins) in order to improve the efficiency of the freezing process, especially for semen showing weak cryosurvival. Besides, I am currently developing the first canine semen bank, based on semen donation, in collaboration with the Belgian Kennel Club (Koninklijke Maatschappij St-Hubertus). This bank will enable to increase the number of stud dogs and subsequently help to improve the canine genetic diversity.

drs. Guillaume Domain


In vitro embryo culture

My name is Adriana, I come from Poland and I am a PhD student at UGent. After having studied biomedical engineering in Poland I came to Gent in order to work on an interdisciplinary project combining engineering, chemical and bilogical sciences for the use in in vitro embryo culture. The main goal is to create a microfluidic platform to mimic the mechanical and physical stimuli  acting on a early developing embryo in vivo.

drs. Adriana Karcz


Placental abnormalities during the pregnancy

When the oocyte and the sperm cell unite, the paternal and maternal genetic content is merged in the zygote, which represents the very beginning of a human or animal being. That zygote will start cleaving into billions of genetically identical cells, comprising one individual. Sometimes, one of those first cleavages is erroneous and gives rise to the segregation of a cell line containing only the paternal or maternal genome. Some rare pathologic tissues that occur during the pregnancy in the uterus of humans and animals only consist out of a paternal genome. In this project, we will study in a bovine model whether and how these abnormal cell lines develop into placental abnormalities during the pregnancy.

drs. Tine De Coster


Detailed identification of signalling factors during bovine oocyte maturation to optimize in vitro maturation conditions necessary to improve oocyte quality

The aim of this project is to undertake a detailed identification of signalling factors during bovine oocyte maturation to optimize in vitro maturation conditions necessary to improve oocyte quality. First, we will complete a systematic exploration of candidate soluble molecules which are most likely be involved in oocyte epigenome remodeling, chromatin integrity, maternal RNA translation and cytoplasmic acquisition of competence. In detail, we will take into consideration proteins, exosomes, and non-coding RNAs using in vitro and in vivo matured cumulus-oocytes-complexes (COCs) from cattle. Our collaborator, Dr. Erik Mullaart, will share his expertise to ensure that collection and analysis of in vivo COCs will be accurately performed. Comparing the proteomic/microRNomics analysis between the in vivo and in vitro matured groups, we will be able to identify critical factors during in vivo maturation and finally to add them in the in vitro culture to assess embryo quality and development.

drs. Camilla Benedetti


Development of a 3D culture system in bovine capable of better maintaining the follicle architecture than the 2D methods currently used

Over the last decades, great effort has been made to improve chemical composition of the culture media used for oocyte in vitro maturation and embryo development. However, physical requirements also play an essential role during the whole growth process of the oocyte. The aim of my project is to develop a 3D culture system in bovine capable of better maintaining the follicle architecture than the 2D methods currently used, which poorly mimic the natural structures of the original tissue. On the other hand, it has been demonstrated that extracellular vesicles (EVs) from follicular fluid are involved in the regulation of pathways controlling follicular growth as well as oocyte cytoplasmic maturation and meiosis resumption. For this reason, we will analyze the effect of EVs addition on oocyte in vitro maturation outcomes. Finally, as oocyte growth is so vulnerable to environmental factors and as epigenetic modifications acquired during oocyte growth are essential for transcriptional regulation, for the establishment of maternal DNA methylation imprints, and for the maintenance of chromosome stability, we will assess how the different culture conditions used influence the epigenetics and chromosomal aberrations in the embryo.

drs. Andrea Fernandez Montoro

Completed doctorates