Through its members, CRDSI covers all relevant sectors of infertility diagnosis and treatment, as well as the improvement of medically assisted reproductive technologies. In industrialized populations, infertility touches a great part of the population with one in six coupe living at least one infertility period during its reproductive life. This infertility is defined by the incapacity to conceive after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. The causes of infertility are varied and divided in almost equal parts between problems of paternal, maternal or idiopathic origin, the latter referring to problems which cause was not identified. The increase of the age of procreation has raised the reliance on medically assisted reproduction technologies (artificial insemination, ovarian stimulation, in vitro fertilization, etc.). This increasing clientele is in great part composed of couples with an advanced reproductive age, as well as with same sex couples. The demand drives effort to improve procedures as well as the development of new technologies, which results in better reproductive success rates.
Many CRDSI researchers being part of the Faculty of Medicine, a lot of their research focuses on reproductive health. On the male side, it is testicular functions and the mechanisms leading to the production of spermatozoa with fertilizing power that are the main focus. The study of these mechanisms is closely linked to the causes of male infertility and in fact, many researchers such as Robert Sullivan, François Richard and Clémence Bellannée, work at identifying markers for sperm quality or non-invasive markers for the diagnostic of dysfunction associated with male infertility. On the female side, the work of Marc-André Sirard and François Richard on folliculogenesis are a staple in the field. Researchers associated with the Faculty of agriculture also regularly tackle human reproductive health related research themes.
The study of reproductive functions and the development of assisted reproduction technologies also have many applications in animal production. Researchers from both the Faculty of Agriculture and the Faculty of Medicine have projects aimed at solving agriculture related challenges. In addition to its interdisciplinary environment, CRDSI offer a rich diversity of research programs that include not only human and mouse but also main husbandry species; bovine, porcine, poultry, sheeps, goats and even bees. Challenges vary with each species but approaches are often similar. For example and contrary to popular belief, artificial insemination, which at first glance seems to be a well mastered and globally used technique, is not fully mastered for the majority of species. In Canada, the reproduction of more than 95% of cows is achieved through artificial insemination in order to take advantage of the genetics of the best sire. These yields are unfortunately not the same for other husbandry species where the semen freezing process is not as efficient. For example, freezing of porcine semen leads to a high mortality rate of sperm, of which close to 90% are not motile post-freezing. Therefore, artificial insemination for porcine production requires the use of fresh semen, which limits options for genetic resources management both from the semen distribution and from the genetic preservation standpoints. Survival of semen post-freezing is also an issue for other ruminants, namely sheep and goat where lost survival rates are observed. There is thus a dire need to improve this technique for the agricultural industry. Janice Bailey works closely with agricultural producers’ associations in order to find solution and improve cryopreservation of semen.
This project aims at providing a means to perform genomic selection by Canadian swine breeders. The project’s outcome will be integrated into the Canadian Swine Improvement Program (CSIP) that is run by the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement (CCSI) who delivers genetic services to breeders. To support the CSIP, CCSI manages a national database of pedigree and performance data recorded on over 6 million individually identified pigs in Canadian pig breeding farms spanning the last 40 years. Over this time, Canadian pig breeders have selected their pigs using genetic evaluations based on standard performance recording in purebred farms. This includes sow productivity, growth, and body composition predictions using ultrasound technology. In swine production, the pyramidal structure and short generation interval allow for any genetic gain achieved at the selection level to be quickly disseminated and translated into economic gains for the entire hog industry. Improvements on different traits benefit various levels of production, processing, marketing and consumption chain. It is possible to monitor genetic progress at the selection level and evaluate the impact of this progress at the production level two generations later. The industry has advanced in the last 20 years with important genetic gains achieved through quantitative selection have been for this success. Integrating genomics into this existing structure will increase the rate of improvement flowing to the entire industry and add new traitsof importance to the industry.