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New Event Offers Networking Opportunity for Embryologists

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Southwest Embryology Summit is Jan. 8-9 in Las Vegas

Have you heard about this cool new event? The Southwest Embryology Summit kicks off Jan. 8-9, 2012, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Registration is full (it had been capped at 50 people) but this won’t be your last chance to attend; organizers hope to make the summit an annual happening!

The ‘Next Generation’ of Embryologists

Marlane Angle, laboratory director for Laurel Fertility Care in San Francisco, California, is among a group of IVF professionals in the southwestern U.S. who organized the summit *. She said the event has two purposes: networking and education. Lab directors are responsible for making sure the embryologists under their supervision obtain continuing education credits and move up within the field, Angle said. This is particularly pressing as several laboratory directors in the southwestern U.S. near retirement.

“It’s about this point we all start thinking about: who’s going to be the next generation?” Angle said. “I think a lot of this industry is connections, who you know. The meetings we’ve all traditionally gone to are getting bigger and bigger . . . Most of them are run and directed by physicians. You tend to go for political reasons. It’s really hard to develop contacts with your peers. All of us are seeing junior people coming up. We want to make sure they have forums for education and forums for networking.”

The Southwest Embryology Summit will be just such a forum. In the interest of keeping the summit as affordable as possible, organizers set registration fees at $50, planned the event in Las Vegas during the offseason, obtained special room rates and recruited industry sponsors. About 10 vendors will promote their products at tables inside the meeting room. There is no registration deadline for becoming a sponsor.

Because the attendance was capped at 50 people, event-goers should get plenty of face-to-face contact. Several exciting discussions on the schedule promise to spark lively debate. Each presentation will last about 15 minutes. A half hour of discussion will follow.

Presentations include:

* Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Van Blerkom, Ph.D.

Topic: "Molecular remodeling of the plasma membrane during mouse and human oocyte maturation and early embryogenesis"

* Speaker: Michael Reed, Ph.D., HCLD

Topic: "Practical, technical approaches to human embryo culture: room for improvement"

* Speaker: Levent Keskintepe, Ph.D., HCLD

Topic: “Oocyte vitrification: Ups and downs"

* Speaker: Kimball Pomeroy, Ph.D., HCLD

Topic: “Microbial cross-contamination during storage in liquid nitrogen - What can livestock teach us?"

* Speaker: Marlane Angle, Ph.D., HCLD

Topic: "The medium’s the message: Quality control in the IVF lab"

A full schedule can be found here: http://www.southwestembryologysummit.com/

The Great pH Debate

During her talk on quality control, Angle plans to cover pH levels as they relate to the culturing of embryos. pH is important because it can affect embryo development and pregnancy rates. “If you look historically, we all started culturing our embryos at a pH of 7.4, because that’s blood pH,” Angle said.

However, there has been some research, particularly from Jay Baltz at the Ottowa Hospital Research Institute, that suggests the intracellular pH of embryos is lower than the pH of blood; for example, research showed the intracellular pH of a mouse embryo is more like 7.12, Angle said.

“Our embryology techniques derive from cell culture techniques, so when you try to measure the intracellular pH of most cells held in culture, it mimics blood cultures, which is 7.4, so the assumption was that human embryos and the blastomeres of embryos were going to do the same thing.”

What scientists have found is that even though other cell types might have intracellular pHs of 7.4, embryos don’t, Angle said. And that’s why the industry has moved to a pH of 7.25 for culturing embryos.

“The point I’m trying to make is: Just because we’ve always done things a particular way doesn’t mean we always should do things that way. One of the things we need to start rethinking is how we culture our embryos. I think there is a movement out there to lower the pH of our culture environment.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Southwest Embryology Summit, visit www.southwestembryologysummit.com or email Marlane Angle at drangle@laurelfertility.com.

* Other founders of the Southwest Embryology Summit include: Levent Keskintepe, executive laboratory director at the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Las Vegas; Kimball Pomeroy, laboratory director and co-owner of Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists in Phoenix, Arizona; and Michael Reed, laboratory director for the Center for Reproductive Medicine of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Heading to the Southwest Embryology Summit?

I checked in with Jeremy Handel, senior manager of public affairs with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors' Authority, to find out what Vegas is like this time of year. As you can see from the photo below, Mandalay Bay is right on the southern tip of the strip.

Cryogal: What is the weather usually like in early January in Las Vegas?

Jeremy Handel: While Las Vegas enjoys an annual average temperature in 70s, early January can be cooler with highs in low 60s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Cryogal: Anything special you would recommend packing for a trip to Vegas in January?

J.H.: Two things I would always recommend for that time of year is a jacket or coat and comfortable shoes to experience the destination on foot.