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Fertility Doctor of the Month: Michael J. Tucker, Ph.D.

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Michael J Tucker, Ph.D., Director of IVF and Embryology Labs, Shady Grove Fertility Centers; Scientific Director, Georgia Reproductive Specialists; Lab Director, Fertility Centers of New England

January 2014

Dr. Michael Tucker has been involved in IVF for nearly three decades and his impressive career as a scientist has accounted for many “firsts” in reproductive endocrinology: the first ICSI baby in the U.S., the first pregnancy and birth from frozen eggs, the first U.S. birth as a result of a testicular biopsy, and the world’s first pregnancy from immature frozen eggs that were matured in a lab. FertilityAuthority is pleased to recognize Dr. Tucker as Doctor of the Month.

“The ability to apply good everyday services in the IVF lab maximizes outcomes,” Tucker says. “Eliminating the risk of error is boring and incredibly complex and time consuming,” but makes for a more successful lab.

In addition to the “firsts” we’ve already mentioned, we talked about several things that are making IVF more successful today:

  • Time lapse monitoring of embryos. The blastocyst is resilient piece of human tissue, Tucker says. But the more you disturb them the less happy they are. That’s the beauty of time lapse monitoring of embryos, which enables the embryologist to view the embryo development without removing the embryos from the incubator to look at them. Moving the embryos will cause a “miniscule but measurable effect on implantation,” he says.
  • IVF culture medium. The introduction to standardized single culture medium with IVF allows the embryologist to fertilize eggs to blastocyst transfer in single step culture, Tucker explains. This is opposed to one culture for fertilization, a fresh culture for development, and a different medium for culture of the embryo to blastocyst stage. Tucker says not moving eggs and embryos around is amazingly time saving and a benefit for risk management, in addition to benefiting the embryo development.
  • Vitrification. It’s no secret that slow freeze with eggs and embryos was not the way to go, Tucker says. Vitrification – a rapid freeze and thaw process - has improved survival rates of eggs and blastocysts and implantation rates of embryos. And improved endometrial receptivity with warming of vitrified blastocysts is evidenced, he adds.
  • Elective single embryo transfer (eSET). Shady Grove Fertility has spearheaded eSET with IVF in the U.S. Tucker says. In patients under the age of 35, greater than 50 percent had eSET in 2013. By transferring just one embryo back in good prognosis patients, the chance of pregnancy is high, and multiple pregnancies and accompanying risks are low.
  • Implantation rates. “We’re finally dissecting implantation rates,” Tucker says. And they are not driven entirely by embryo quality: 75 to 80 percent depend of quality and viability of the embryo; 20 to 25 percent depend on a healthy receptive endometrium.

All of these advances provide the potential to manage IVF cycles more consistently, and increase success rates. It's what his career has been built on. But his job is more than that, Tucker says. “I work with a family of friends, and I’m so happy to help families being built.”

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