An unusual ‘Show and Tell’
10 April 2012
The School of Sports and Exercise Sciences recently hosted Honorary Fellow Dr. Simon Fishel. One of the world’s leading specialists in the treatment of infertility, Dr Fishel was delighted to have an opportunity to meet the sports science research teams and discuss their work, and reciprocated by giving a lecture to staff and students on his own specialism.
Dr Fishel is recognised internationally for his pioneering research in embryology and IVF over the last thirty-five years.
He began his research career at Cambridge, and worked with the Nobel physiologist and IVF pioneer Professor Sir Robert Edwards in the years leading up to the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, the world’s first test-tube baby. Since then he has dedicated his working life to research and the treatment of infertility.
Introducing the lecture, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill suggested that the birth of Louise Brown must feature in any review of the great scientific breakthroughs of the last century, and that the University was immensely proud to have as one of its Fellows, someone who has contributed to one of the milestones of scientific research. Has anything had greater impact? That would be an interesting discussion.
By 2010, 4 million IVF babies had been born worldwide, and IVF was cemented firmly in medical practice with the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine to Professor Sir Robert Edwards.
In his lecture Dr. Fishel described the processes involved in in-vitro fertilisation, and illustrated these with a series of mesmerising video clips that delivered an illuminating insight into this microscopic world. He discussed the ethical considerations that have guided and continue to guide research in this area, and set the research in its psychological and socio-economic context. Late motherhood, declining sperm counts and fewer people having a ‘normal’ body weight are contributory trends leading to an increased demand for IVF treatment worldwide. Primarily privately-funded, the demand for IVF treatment has continued to rise through the economic downturn and ‘IVF tourism’ is commonplace, due to the differing ‘social mores’ adopted by near-neighbouring countries. Italy and Germany’s laws governing IVF lead to patients travelling to Denmark and Belgium, where the governments are more overtly supportive. He concluded by introducing some of the pipeline technologies that are emerging through IVF research – in imaging (to treat genetic disorders), robotics and nano-sized incubators.
In his concluding remarks, Professor Tim Cable thanked Dr Fishel for delivering such a wide-ranging fascinating lecture, and commented "your enthusiasm for your science shines out."
Dr. Fishel was delighted to have this opportunity to explore an area of science that is new to him, and was impressed by both the research teams and the facilities in the School. "I’d like to convey my gratitude to Peter, and particularly Keith and Tim, for their hospitality and time in showing me around the various complexes – which I enjoyed very much," said Dr Fishel - "I am indeed very proud to be associated with the University."
Pictured: (left to right): Professor Keith George (Head of the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES)), Professor Tim Cable (Director, School of Sports & Exercise Sciences), Dr Simon Fishel, LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill, Professor Andy Young (Director, Research) and Professor Peter Wheeler (Dean, Faculty of Science)