Dr. Andrea Jurisicova, Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum
Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital and an Associate Professor
of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto, seeks
to improve understanding of the genetic and biomolecular factors
underlying female infertility.
She is using new imaging techniques to explore embryo quality with
the goal of improving the outcome for couples suffering from
Dr. Jurisicova trained in Slovakia as an embryologist, and then
completed her graduate and PhD training under Dr. Robert Casper in
Toronto. She conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical
School, and has been working at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum since 2007.
That year, in recognition of her past efforts and future promise,
Dr. Jurisicova won a $100,000 federally funded Canada Research Chair,
so she and other Lunenfeld researchers can expand their search for
genes linked to female infertility. Within the next few years, Dr.
Jurisicova hopes to identify genes tied to repeat failures of in vitro
fertilization and, ultimately, boost the success rate of embryo
development for childless couples.
Dr. Jurisicova is also conducting research into how toxins affect a
woman's fertility and that of her offspring. Her research has
showed that when females are exposed to polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, fumes from wood
stoves and in charred and smoked foods), the number of eggs in their
offspring's ovaries is reduced by two thirds. In addition, these
compounds can trigger early embryo loss (miscarriage) as well as
retarded embryo growth.
In addition to early embryo development Dr. Jurisicova is also
interested in understanding genetic and environmental pathways that may
trigger premature ovarian failure. She is working to determine how
exposure to radiation therapy impacts the genes determining the fate of
eggs (or oocytes) and how damage to oocytes incurred by radiation can
be prevented, which would ultimately benefit women undergoing radiation
therapy for cancer.
Dr. Jurisicova, in collaboration with Dr. Casper, is investigating
the process of mitochondrial activity in oocytes of older females. By
studying the quality of oocytes (in an animal model) in older versus
younger mothers, they found that mitochondria (the energy-producing
power stations of cells) become less metabolically active with age,
which puts the offspring at greater risk of developing obesity and
metabolic syndrome, and predisposes them to diabetes. However,
administration of coenzyme Q10 (a vitamin-like substance
found in mitochondria) can reverse the effects of mitochondrial changes
in oocytes, improve fertility, and reduce the risk of chromosomal
Dr. Jurisicova is working to translate these findings to the clinic
to improve the chance of pregnancy in older women, while preventing
genetic abnormalities including Down syndrome in infants.
Through research using animal models of disease, Dr. Jurisicova
is also investigating abnormalities in the placenta that occur during
embryonic development (which may lead to pre-eclampsia and/or
miscarriages), as well as intrauterine growth restriction.