Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

REP-BIOTECH Report Summary

Project ID: 675526
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REP-BIOTECH (European Joint Doctorate in Biology and Technology of Reproductive Health)

Reporting period: 2015-11-01 to 2017-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

REP-BIOTECH (Biology and Technology of the Reproductive Health) European Joint Doctoral (EJD) project is a European network of scientists and industry professionals established to train a new generation of excellent researchers in the biology and technology of reproductive health (human and animal). Through intensive and multidisciplinary training, 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will contribute to the welfare of European society developing useful strategies to improve food quality, human health and human and animal fertility. Training of REP-BIOTECH ESRs will take place on a collaborative basis of research developed by 12 leading academic/research institutions and 3 companies from a total of 9 different countries: Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Germany, USA, Japan, Denmark and The Netherlands. The network started on November 1st 2015 and will end on October 31st 2019.
The overall goals of REP-BIOTECH are: 1) to create a strong and stable network between scientists, students, clinicians, other professionals and policy makers involved in the field of study and to promote the translation to society of knowledge in this area, and 2) to train ESRs enrolled in the program to acquire the technical and transferable skills necessary to successfully carry out a specific scientific project worthy of the awarding of a Doctoral degree.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Work performed during the first 2 years was distributed across 8 work packages (WP). In WP1 (Management and Coordination) activities focused on designing the website (www.rep-biotech.com), recruitment of ESRs using an open and merit-based procedure, choosing the Supervisory Board members and reaching a Legal Agreement for the Joint Doctorate. Within WP2, ESRs received specific training in methodological, technical and transferable skills according to their Personal Career Development Plans (details on the website). They also attended at least one scientific conference per year (details on the website) plus the annual REP-BIOTECH internal meetings, where they presented their main research results.

WP3 to WP6 focused on research activities as established in the proposed projects (see details on the website). In WP3, significant progress has been made in several projects. New genes (SOX8, SOX10 and ZRSR2Y) exhibiting characteristic features of sex determination in cattle were identified. Follicular fluid which bathes the oocyte prior to ovulation and fertilization was collected from postpartum cows to analyze miRNA profiles and their relation with energy status, important for our understanding of subfertility in such animals. With respect to the developing fetus, we have shown that progesterone increases the regenerative potential of ovine Amniotic Epithelial Cells by inducing inhibition of inflammation and a pro-regenerative responses. In WP4, a new procedure to obtain viable oocytes from cryopreserved ovarian tissue was established and is being tested in another animal model for validation. This could have implications for the conservation of endangered species as well as the maintenance of fertility for women undergoing cancer treatment. Also, different devices for collection of human reproductive fluids (RF) have been tested and the first samples were collected and stored in the first biobank of human RF worldwide. In WP5, a comprehensive analysis of the proteins, genes and metabolites present in the bovine oviduct, where oocyte fertilization and early embryo development take place, has been pursued. Differences were detected in amino acids profiles between different sections of the oviduct and the addition of OF-derived extracellular vesicles improved the embryo quality. Finally, two computational models of sperm capacitation based on biological networks theory were developed to study (i) protein-protein interactions and dynamics of actin during the post-ejaculatory life of male gametes and (ii) the proteins involved in the cell cycle. WP6 analyzed the interactions between gametes, embryos and their environment and the epigenetic changes involved. Isolation and characterization of exosomes from RF of pregnant cows was performed to evaluate how embryos react to a suboptimal environment. Also, the effect of heat-stressed semen on DNA methylation pattern and embryo development and the epigenome was analyzed. In addition, the impact of endocrine status on the freezability of semen in ruminants has been analyzed and the proteomic analysis is in progress. Finally, the effect of secretions of the reproductive tract added during bovine oocyte maturation, fertilization and embryo development in the laboratory, has been carried out and results are currently being analysed.

WP7 focused on the communication of the outputs of REP-BIOTECH and increasing awareness of this network amongst scientists and society using several initiatives. REP-BIOTECH Ambassadors were involved in communication activities including participation in exhibitions, interviews on Radio and TV, visits and talks to high school students and teachers, etc. In addition, the REP-BIOTECH website and social networks (Facebook and others) have been used as communication channels. Last year the website received 4,082 visits. For dissemination and exploitation of the results (WP8), ESRs have presented 7 oral communications and 18 posters at international conferences (in 8

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The goal of REP-BIOTECH is to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative open-minded individuals with a wide vision of reproductive challenges and a broad knowledge-base from which to devise solutions. REPBIOTECH will provide professionals that will be in charge of reproductive health and reproductive problems at any level in clinics and research centres. Despite the impressive development of human assisted reproductive technology (ART), over 60% of ART cycles are not successful. In the animal world, decreasing conception rates affects intensive food production species and wild animals in captivity. Thus, ESRs are working on 15 original and innovative projects, carried out in several relevant large mammalian species, and using cutting-edge techniques, the results of which will impact the scientific community and, in the long term, on society. These results will help to develop strategies to prevent further diseases, malformations or reproductive failures under adverse conditions.
The estimated number of people reached in the context of the communication activities was 8200 people from the general public and 400 people from industry. The program has also promoted the concept of a Joint PhD Degree, so that the ESRs will be awarded with a European Joint Degree after the Thesis defenses

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