Dr. David Albertini, Leading Embryologist and Editor of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, Joins BRF

Amidst the chaos of COVID-19 this year, the BRF has welcomed a new member to their stem cell research team. Professor David Albertini formalized his commitment to advancing the cause of therapeutic stem cell program at the BRF by accepting the position of Professor and Chair of the Department of Developmental Cell Biology. David’s more than 40 year career in reproductive medicine has addressed the basic cellular mechanisms underlying how eggs are built within the ovary and how once activated, by sperm or artificial means, the process of embryonic development is launched. It is this latter dimension of his background that he is pursuing with Dr. Ann Kiessling and colleagues at BRF as they attempt to derive embryonic stem cells from human eggs that have been artificially activated.

Dr. Albertini

Dr. Albertini speaks at the 2019 Activated Egg Symposium in Boston.

David has been a leader in the use of egg cells to produce viable embryos initially using animal models and over the past 20 years, his efforts have focused on how to improve the quality of human eggs and embryos as measured by their ability to yield healthy offspring after transfer back into patients. From this work, David was a member of the team that developed human oocyte freezing back in the 2000s. David has also been a leader in the field of biomedical imaging of living embryos and stem cells and in 2019, moved one of his high-powered live cell imaging systems to the BRF where it has become an important tool for the research going on there.

“BRF is an incredibly unique organization that is doing potentially life-saving research that cannot be done in large federally funded labs, I am thrilled to be joining the team.” – Dr Albertini

A key project that David has taken on since joining the BRF is that of making parthenogenetic embryos from human eggs from which we plan to derive “patient-specific” stem cells. Patient-specific cells would help solve the ongoing problem of tissue rejection that exists with many current stem cell therapies. Using oocytes obtained from young “egg bank” donors, the team has been able to develop methodology assuring maturation of eggs that when presented with activating stimuli result in development of embryos containing only a female (maternal) genome. The BRF team had previously demonstrated the feasibility of making stem cells from such “parthenotes” in mice and even achieved genetic engineering of the resultant stem cells. To reach the same goal with human eggs, that in the end could provide a source of therapeutic stem cells for patients in need, is the overarching aim of the BRF program, enriched as it now is with the addition of David.

Microscope photo of a A three-cell parthenote

A three-cell human parthenote developed at BRF.

In addition to his research prowess, David has been a dedicated educator and academician holding appointments at Harvard, Tufts, Kansas University Medical Center, and The Rockefeller University. He has trained over 50 Ph.D. students, and post-doctoral fellows and has been widely recognized as a lecturer, meeting organizer, and recipient of honorary awards for research excellence from professional societies around the world. His formal involvement with the BRF also means that the BRF becomes the official editorial office for the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, a journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that he has been Editor-in-Chief of since the summer of 2009.

And finally, as noted above, David is a local product having been raised in nearby Hudson, MA and receiving his Ph.D. from the Division of Medical Sciences at the Harvard Medical School (in 1975). He is thrilled to be back in the neighborhood where his lifelong aspirations to contribute to humanity through the lens of contemporary biomedical science will continue to flourish.

We look forward to sending more updates on our research progress with Dr. Albertini in the New Year.

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