Reproductive Biology Laboratory

Welcome to the webpage of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory (RBL) based at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The embryologists at the RBL, together with the Reproductive and Endocrine Clinic, operate under the auspices of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The laboratory was established in 1981 to offer world class infertility treatment. Embryologists are specialist laboratory staff who take care of human gametes and embryos in an optimal condition according to good laboratory practices. The strength of our laboratory lies in the translation of research into clinical practice, with an improved service delivery to our patients.

The RBL is an HPCSA accredited training laboratory for internship training of Medical Biological Scientists and Clinical Technologists in Reproductive Biology. The largest number of embryologists in South Africa are trained at the RBL, with a 100% success rate in HPCSA Portfolio of Evidence examinations. A sufficient number of trained embryologists must be available for appropriate laboratory operations to provide infertility services.

Welcome to the webpage of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory (RBL) based at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The embryologists at the RBL, together with the Reproductive and Endocrine Clinic, operate under the auspices of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The laboratory was established in 1981 to offer world class infertility treatment. Embryologists are specialist laboratory staff who take care of human gametes and embryos in an optimal condition according to good laboratory practices. The strength of our laboratory lies in the translation of research into clinical practice, with an improved service delivery to our patients.

The RBL is an HPCSA accredited training laboratory for internship training of Medical Biological Scientists and Clinical Technologists in Reproductive Biology. The largest number of embryologists in South Africa are trained at the RBL, with a 100% success rate in HPCSA Portfolio of Evidence examinations. A sufficient number of trained embryologists must be available for appropriate laboratory operations to provide infertility services.

 

VISION:

Providing internationally-equivalent assisted reproductive laboratory services, while advancing the field of embryology in sub-Saharan Africa.

Enhancing the profession of embryology through active participation in local, national and international professional activities.

AIMS:

  • Provide high quality laboratory services to patients requiring infertility treatment
  • Offer exceptional educational opportunities through the training of candidate interns to become embryologists utilizing an HPCSA approved curriculum
  • Initiate and perform locally relevant research of a high standard in the field of reproductive biology.

STAFF LIST:

ACADEMIC STAFF:
Prof Carin Huyser (PhD) – Head of Reproductive Biology Laboratory | +27 (0)12 354 2067/2208 | [email protected]
Ms Terri-Ann de Jager (MSc) - Assistant Research Officer | +27 (0)12 354 5136 | [email protected]
 
ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF:
Ms Mary Makgoba – Secretary | +27 (0)12 354 2208 | [email protected]
 
LABORATORY STAFF:
Assistant Director Medical Science:
Mr Gerhard Boshoff (MSc, PhD candidate)
Embryologists:
Ms Kirsty Abrahams (MSc candidate)
Ms Samantha Bhengu (MSc candidate)
Ms Nomfundo Mkhwanazi (MSc)
Ms Shaan Maharaj (BTech)
Ms Samantha Rehrl (MSc)
 
AUXILIARY STAFF:
Ms Mary Nkosi
Ms Mpho Zwane
 

LABORATORY SERVICE:

Reproductive laboratory facilities, diagnostic workup of patients, gamete preparation and embryo culture are integral parts of Assisted Reproduction. To determine the appropriate procedure to follow, both the male and female components involved should be evaluated. Three major factors to consider are whether the female have patent fallopian tubes, if there are male factor subfertility and history of previous ART treatment cycles.

Procedures and techniques performed at the RBL include, but are not limited to: diagnostic semen analysis, therapeutic sperm processing & viral decontamination (Banner 1, with video on processing during decontamination procedure), oocyte insemination by IVF or ICSI, embryo culture & transfer (Banner 2, with reference to embryo time-line development), and the cryopreservation of gametes & embryos (Banner 3, indicating sequential events).

Banner 1: Semen decontamination procedure

 


Video:Loading of a conical tube containing an insert during semen
decontamination (top and bottom layers refer to density gradients)  
Photo:IVF Laboratory: Embryology section 1

 

Banner 2: Timeline of embryo culture

Timelapse technology is employed at the RBL to visualize embryos in culture without interruption of the culture environment. The preparation of a culture dish is indicated in the figure below, accompanied by a video depicting embryo development over a 5-day culture period. Video imaging is a useful tool for training & research, and to diagnose oocyte and embryo pathologies on a morphological and developmental level.


Video: Timeline development of an embryo cohort in culture (18 – 112 hours) as captured through timelapse technology

Figure:Photo-image of specialized dish designed for timelapse embryo culture

 

Banner 3: Embryo and oocyte cryopreservation events

RESEARCH:

Our efficiency as an academic laboratory, not only lies in the personal day-to-day service delivery but also in the professional legacy of knowledgeable embryologists, who merge into leading contributors to the field of assisted reproduction through research. Several research and technology development projects are currently underway, collaborating with national and international researchers (Belgium, UK, India, Middle East & the USA) the areas of focus include:

  • Affordable IVF services
  • A global survey on embryology as a profession
  • ART regulations & ethics
  • Embryo morphokinetic analyses
  • Non-invasive embryo genetic testing
  • Somatic cell nuclear transfer in an animal model
  • Sperm DNA fragmentation & oxidative stress

For further information on any of the research endeavours, please feel free to contact Ms TA de Jager (assistant research officer) to channel your queries to the appropriate researchers.

TRAINING:

The Assisted Reproductive laboratory training program has been in existence since 1984 and is the largest contributor of embryologists to the field in South Africa. The RBL is one of only two Medical Biological Scientist training facilities in the country. Further academic development of students and staff through post graduate studies are strongly promoted (Table 1). To date both medical scientist as well as clinical technologists (Table 2) have been trained through this program.

Table 1: Post graduate degrees associated with RBL obtained through UP

Table 2: HPCSA qualified embryologists trained at RBL

 

Please feel free to contact the assistant research officer for further enquiries. Students and interested colleagues are welcome to visit us with prior arrangement. Mrs TA de Jager is available for further information on internship training in Reproductive Biology, or embryology as a career. Details on practical and theoretical training according to an HPCSA curriculum can be provided. This includes the compilation of a portfolio of evidence consisting of case studies, assignments, and a detailed research project, which could also culminate into a further postgraduate research protocol.

 

 

 

- Author G Boshoff, T de Jager, C Huyser
Published by Srinivasu Nadupalli

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