Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 April 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 20 APRIL 2019 3 NEWS The Australia-based Greek IVF doctor’s breakthrough helping couples worldwide to conceive CON STAMOCOSTAS It's not surprising Dr Christos Venetis' work has gained international recognition, given it has been instrumental in changing the clinical practice in most IVF clinics worldwide. Currently the Senior Coordinator of Clinical Research at IVF Australia and a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Dr Venetis gained his MD from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where he was also awarded his PhD for work on the prognostic role of progesterone for the outcome of in-vitro fertilisation cycles. Dr Venetis has also conducted research on the optimal way to stimulate a woman's ovaries. In the early days of IVF, it was shown that collecting multiple eggs by stimulating the ovaries increased the chances of IVF success compared to just collecting a single egg that a woman releases during her cycle. Dr Christos Venetis. But more recently, several clinicians believed stimulating the ovaries and collecting many eggs would somehow compromise their quality. This "quality over quantity" dilemma has been troubling IVF doctors and scientists for close to 20 years now. But Dr Venetis and his colleagues conducted research here in Australia that proved the exact opposite. This work was presented at the largest annual conference of Reproductive Medicine in Europe in 2017 and, as expected, attracted significant attention. "What we did with my colleagues here at IVF Australia was to design and execute a study where for the first time we were able to debunk the theory that 'more is less'," he told Neos Kosmos in his first Australian interview. "It was shown that the more eggs you are able to retrieve, the more genetically normal embryos you will have. Mean- a low egg count but also had quite good egg quality." On the issue of whether IVF can improve the quality of the egg, Dr Venetis admitted there was little that can be done. "We have not yet been able to find something that could universally increase the quality of a woman's eggs," he said. Dr Venetis' findings also have the capacity to transform how ovarian stimulation is performed, such as reducing the amount of times What we did with my colleagues here at IVF Australia was to design and execute a study where for the first time we were able to debunk the theory that ‘more is less’. ing these women have a higher chance to get pregnant." However, in the case that multiple eggs are not retrieved, it doesn't mean that a pregnancy won't occur, Dr Venetis pointed out. "This by no means should be translated as women who have fewer eggs will not get pregnant," he said. "The main issue when it comes to women with low ovarian reserve is whether the egg quality is affected. We have treated many women successfully who had a woman injects herself with hormones and goes through an egg collection. "Sometimes, for younger women, this means that you should aim to retrieve a higher number of eggs and by doing so there's a good chance of producing more high quality embryos," he said. In cases of women with low ovarian reserve, Dr Venetis says alternative approaches are sometimes required. For example, a study he performed in Greece produced some promising results when it came to treatment. "We were able to show that instead of giving these women high doses of hormones, we can treat them in their natural cycle and collect month after month one or two eggs with better results" he said. "For these women, the overall chance of conception can be higher using this method. When we compared these cycles, women who had egg collections during natural cycles had a better outcome than women who were heavily stimulated." Dr Venetis' focus isn't limited to medical treatment. His work within the European Society of Human Reproduction of Embryology Guidelines Development Group in 2015 produced guidelines for proper psychosocial support of patients in fertility clinics. "We wanted to bring to the attention of staff working in fertility clinics that they should be mindful of the various psychosocial needs of their patients" he said. "Many couples who are unsuccessful in their first or second IVF cycle abandon treatment prematurely and that significantly reduces their chances of eventually having a baby. "Because we do know that continuing treatment is something that has been shown to consistently improve couples' chances of ending up with a baby. " Why Greece is considered a world leader in IVF treatment According to Dr Venetis, Greece is at the leading edge of fertility treatment in large part due to the country's excellent tradition when it comes to medical training. He says that most of the sub-specialists and embryologists in Greece have been trained in prestigious European clinics. Given their diverse work experience, Dr Venetis says that the working environment grants specialists the chance to think outside the box, making way for non-traditional methods of treatment. "This can have a profound impact on how patients are managed, especially in hard to treat cases," Dr Ventis said. "It's in these cases that pay- ing attention to detail can make a world of difference. It's about looking at the specifics of the couple and working with them systematically on the little things. This is probably one of the main reasons Greece has an outstanding reputation when it comes to IVF." Before moving to Sydney in 2014, Dr Venetis was based at the Unit for Human Reproduction at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, considered one of the most prestigious academic IVF clinics in Greece. While his move was largely due to the financial crisis, he says Australia's offerings made it a desirable move, from the world-leading infra- "We were treating mainly couples that had exhausted all other means of conceiving," he said. "We had a constant flow of Dr Chris Venetis’ work has been instrumental in changing the clinical practice. structure for IVF to the high quality of life. "After completing my training in reproductive medicine, I opted to seek new challenges, especially with how things were in Greece at the time," he said. "I felt Australia had the in- frastructure for me to take the next step in my career both clinically and research wise." But his time in Greece, certainly allowed Dr Venetis to conduct vital research, especially for women of advanced reproductive age. women that had failed multiple times previously and during their treatment with us were more open to participating in research. This helped us get answers about some of the most important questions on how to better treat these poor prognosis women." According to Dr Venetis, one of the reasons Greece is a popular IVF treatment destination is due to its national system of sperm and egg donation, which differs in other countries, such as Australia. "Greece has a very well-developed sperm and egg donor program," he said. "In Australia unfortunately we are having issues finding enough volunteers to donate their sperm or eggs." He says this is in large part due to the legislation surrounding donors. "In Australian law mandates that if someone donates sperm or eggs their details are available to their genetic offspring when they become of legal age," he said. "In Greece, on the other hand, the legislation is completely different. Sperm or egg donation is strictly anonymous and there is no way for anyone who was conceived with the help of a donor to find out the identity of their genetic parent."
13 April 2019
27 April 2019