Scientific research at Brussels IVF

If you are visiting this website, you are probably considering having children and may be seeking medical guidance. We sincerely hope that Brussels IVF will be able to help you too.

To date, more than 48,000 children have been born thanks to fertility treatment at UZ Brussel. In July 2023, 45 years after the birth of the first IVF baby, the total number of children born as a result of IVF worldwide is more than 8 million.

Current knowledge of reproductive medicine is the result of  extensive and continuous research. Scientific research is therefore an essential feature of Brussels IVF’s DNA.

Partly due to this scientific drive,  our centre has played a pioneering role – often in collaboration with the Medical Genetics Centre (CMG) at UZ Brussel – in the development and improvement of reproductive technologies since its inception in 1984.

Brussels IVF is also a member of a network of research and treatment institutions and promotes and facilitates international cooperation. Our centre is a co-founder and long-standing active member of ESHRE, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

Continuous scientific research remains necessary for medical progress. Thanks to the contribution of many patients who are willing to donate human tissue(oocytes, sperm cells) or embryos for fundamental research, we aim to optimise treatment and success rates for prospective parents.

Apart from this fundamental research,  our centre also conducts continuous clinical research. Multiple clinical studies, covering all aspects of fertility issues, are set up, enabling us to always propose the best and latest treatments and technologies to future patients. In addition to routine treatments, we can thus also suggest new treatments in study settings. In some cases, these may offer added value for your personal situation.

Clinical studies

Our centre conducts research within all fields of reproductive medicine. Clinical studies can cover different aspects of fertility treatment, including the medication protocol, a procedure, contact with healthcare providers and the patient experience, as well as processing in our laboratories.

In all these fields, fFertility doctors and embryologists work closely with Brussels IVF researchers, or with a research group of the Faculty of Medicine of the Free University of Brussels. Brussels IVF also collaborates with international research groups and pharmaceutical companies.

All the studies that are conducted at our centre must first receive approval from the Medical Ethics Committee of UZ Brussel and/or the relevant government agency. As such, you can be sure that a study meets the prescribed quality criteria, reporting requirements, and patient data guidelines.

If ongoing research could potentially add value to your treatment, your doctor will discuss this with you. You will then receive guidance from a specialist study counsellor during your pathway.

As our research covers all aspects of fertility treatment, you or your partner may be contacted by a Brussels IVF researcher if your situation meets the study criteria. A fertility doctor, embryologist, or study nurse will contact you and provide information about the study and options for your pathway.
Sometimes our research may directly impact your pathway. In some cases, you may not benefit from it directly, but the research will generate new insights and may have an impact on the outcomes and options for new treatments for prospective parents.

A study or research is only possible when you explicitly agree to this beforehand by giving your ‘informed consent’ and signing a consent form.

In addition to being part of our centre’s academic objectives, our research activities are also important for our accredited  quality management system as we also monitor the quality of the care we provide through patient studies. We always evaluate our (new) fertility programmes in terms of their outcomes:

 

  • effects on the patient,
  • success rate,
  • progress of pregnancy,
  • maternal and baby health.

Scientific research

All scientific research is conducted within the ‘Reproductive Genetics and Regenerative Medicine’ or REGE cluster of the Faculty of Medicine of the Free University of Brussels. This REGE cluster consists of seven research groups, and our centre works closely with several of these research groups. Fundamental (or academic) scientific research is a prerequisite for improving assisted reproductive technologies.

Scientific research on reproductive human material is only possible with the patient’s prior and explicit consent. This refers to research on oocytes, sperm cells or embryos, which you can no longer, may not or do not want to use as part of your treatment.

To conduct this research on human tissue, prospective parents must sign the necessary informed consent forms with their counsellor before starting treatment. When signing this form, you decide whether your reproductive material may be used for research after which it is destroyed or whether it must be destroyed immediately. The decision is individual for gametes: women make the decision about their oocytes, men about their sperm cells. For embryos, the decision is made as a couple.

With the consent form, you decide whether you want to take part in research but also in which research areas and/or specific projects you want to participate, and whether your patient data may be shared.
If you agree to donate reproductive material for training or scientific research, it can be used for research in various fields:

1.Training of laboratory staff

To apply complex technologies (e.g., microinjection of oocytes, freezing and thawing of gametes and embryos, removing one or more cells from embryos (embryo biopsy) and learning how to perform genetic screening of gametes and embryos) in a qualitative manner, our employees have to train with real gametes and embryos first.

2. Scientific research in five domains

  • Domain A – Improving laboratory techniques
  • Domain B – Knowledge of embryonic development and implantation of the embryo into the uterus
  • Domain C – Knowledge of embryo genetics
  • Domain D – Embryonic stem cell research
  • Domain E – Knowledge and application of genome editing

If you consent to scientific research but your gametes or embryos are not suitable or not needed for scientific research or training at that time, they will be destroyed.

Elsie Nulens
Midwife and coordinator of Clinical Trials

Prof. Hilde Van de Velde
Clinical embryologist and coordinator of Scientific Research in the ART laboratory

Research at UZ Brussel

Brussels IVF is part of UZ Brussel. Before it can conduct scientific or clinical studies, our centre must obtain approval from the Medical Ethics Committee. All studies must meet the overarching conditions and quality requirements.

Find out more about:

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Informed consents and Scientific Research appendix

Scientific research on reproductive human material (oocytes, sperm cells, and embryos) is only possible with your prior, explicit consent. This refers to human material or embryos that you cannot use as part of your treatment.

To find out more about the fields of research and ongoing projects on reproductive material, you can find the Scientific Research appendix here:

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UPDATE 2703/2024: Renovation works Brussels IVF

The end of the renovation works is scheduled for the end of April 2024.

To increase the comfort and privacy of its patients, Brussels IVF is renovating its nursing unit (VP03) and the reception desk area at our Andrology Lab.
As part of these renovation works the reception desk of our Andrology Laboratory and its associated rooms to collect a sperm sample, are temporarily located on the second floor of Brussels IVF (via route 980).

During your treatment, we guarantee the same quality of care but you might experience a reduced level of comfort due to the temporary location with limited space.
We will make every effort to minimise any inconvenience.

Consult the practical guidelines and the FAQ on the renovation works.