Extract from The Infertility Trap, by Laureate Professor John Aitken, Scientific Director at Memphasys.

One of the first lines of defence against declining fertility must be improved sex education, not just for pubescent teenagers in high school, but for everyone! In the days when it was possible to travel freely and give lectures to non-specialists about the challenges facing human production, the general public’s limited knowledge of the reproductive process always struck me.
Lots of confusion between menopause and age-dependent infertility, a lack of awareness concerning the impacts of age on male and female reproduction, no comprehension of the impact of lifestyle on infertility and no knowledge of the prevalence and relative importance of male and female infertility. There is also a misguided belief in the general population that Assisted Reproductive technologies (ART) industry will solve all of their woes. It will not.

What we need now is a complete overhaul of sex education to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Conventional sex education has a laser-like focus on the prevention of teenage pregnancies and an educational message that has been forged in the torment of unmarried pregnant women, abandoned by all around them, and left alone and afraid to deal with the consequences.

Happily, times have changed. There is no disgrace in the unmarried conceiving children and there is no stigma to being an illegitimate child. In modern society ‘the fatherless do find compassion’ – or at least more compassion than in times past. What we need now is a sex education programme that tells the full story. A programme that clearly explains that fertility is not just a tap you can turn on and off at will; it is an ephemeral butterfly that makes wing with the first light of morning and then, before evening’s empire has returned into sand, is forever lost.

Both men and women need to understand the fragility of their fertility and live lives that maximise their chances of reproductive success.  In particular we need to educate women about the ticking of their biological clocks and the inevitable impact of age on fertility, as well as the risk of aneuploidies such as Down syndrome. We also need to educate men about the impact of their age on the mutational load carried by their offspring and the consequential risk of genetic disease.

Furthermore, we need to educate everybody about the assisted conception industry; what it can and cannot achieve and how much it may ultimately cost. Education on the realistic benefits and risks of egg, sperm and embryo freezing is urgently needed. The possibility of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis needs to be understood as a means of ensuring that the embryo possesses a normal chromosomal complement and is not carrying damaging mutations such as those responsible for cystic fibrosis.

The inability for IVF/ICSI to rescue fertility in cases of advanced maternal age should be recognised, as should the ability of egg donation services to address this issue. Same-sex couples may also want to be aware of surrogacy programmes and sperm donation services.

We should also all be better educated about the non-binary nature of gender and be aware of the differences between chromosomal sex (what your genes say you should be), phenotypic sex (which gender stereotype you resemble in terms of external genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics) and brain sex (what your psychology says you really are). The complexity of sexual differentiation, affiliation and assignment, and all the shades of grey that this entails, need to be understood. The number of children born with some level of sexual ambiguity, including various patterns of intersex variation (ambiguous genitalia/hermaphrodite, pseudohermaphroditism, etc.) seems to be increasing (Rich et al., 2016) and we owe it to those experiencing such confusion to have, at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of their condition.

Extracts from The Infertility Trap, by Laureate Professor John Aitken, Scientific Director at Memphasys. 

Our Felix™ device is the culmination of our ongoing collaboration with Professor John Aitken, a renowned figure in reproductive biology worldwide. The Felix™ device utilises Memphasys’ sperm separation technology, which is now in commercial production and available for purchase in early adopting countries like Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. We are currently conducting clinical studies and preparing regulatory certifications for markets in China and Australia.

We are thrilled to have Professor Aitken as a key partner as we advance our focused business development efforts in the assisted reproduction and fertility market. Together, we aim to create a world-class portfolio of devices, diagnostics, and media products that address crucial issues in human and animal reproduction.