EGA Institute for Women's Health


Reproductive Science Group

Our group is a multi-disciplinary team of basic scientists, social scientists and lawyers working on various aspects of reproductive technologies 
from social egg freezing to genome editing. We are especially interested in new technology being developed for assisted reproductive technologies. 
As well as laboratory aspects, we are exploring social, ethical, legal and religious views towards current and new technology being used in fertility treatment. 

The team is led by Professor Joyce Harper who has been working in the field for over 30 years, and the senior members include Dr Helen O’Neill, Dr Zeynep Gurtin and an honorary appointment of ProfessorEmily Jackson (LSE).

The main themes of our research are:

New technology in fertility treatment
After publication of our ground-breaking papers ‘When and how should new technology be brought into the IVF lab’ and ‘ Adjuncts in the IVF laboratory: where is the evidence for ‘add-on’ interventions?" we are examining how clinics use new technology.

Preconception carrier screening
We are examining preconception carrier screening which is increasingly being offered to women and couples before they try to conceive.  Some of these tests are offered directly to the patient with no involvement of a health care professional (direct to consumer genetic testing). 

Donor conception
After publication of our paper 'The end of donor anonymity: How genetic testing is likely to drive anonymous gamete donation out of business’, we are investigating the awareness of donors and patients who use donor conception.  We are also investigating unregulated sperm donation via introduction websites.

Germline genome editing
We are using CRISPR Cas 9 to examine various aspects of infertility.

Joyce Harper is part of the Nuffield Council for Bioethics working group on Genome Editing. 

Culture media
Joyce Harper is part of the ESHRE culture media working group who have published a paper titled ‘Time to take human embryo culture seriously’.  The team are collaborating with Daniel Brison at the University of Manchester looking at the use of culture media in UK clinics.

Egg freezing
After publication of a review on egg freezing in Human Reproduction Update, we are studying various aspects of social egg freezing.

Religious views to fertility treatment
We are looking at Jewish and Islamic views to infertility treatment, especially in relation to new technology.  Various people from both communities are being interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire and focus groups.

Factors affecting sperm viability
We are investigating the effects of e-cigarettes on sperm survival.  We are also investigating the vitrification of sperm.

Fertility awareness
As part of a project run through the British Fertility Society but involving many partners, we are developing tools to provide fertility and pregnancy awareness to schools, teachers, teenagers and parents.