Award-winning research offers clues to biomarkers of infertility

Award-winning research offers clues to biomarkers of infertility

Research that examines potential genetic biomarkers of infertility won first prize at the 2022 AMA Research Challenge, beating nearly 1,200 other entries from medical students, residents and fellows, and international medical graduates in the nation’s largest multi-specialty national research event.

Leelabati “Leela” Biswas, MD candidate at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, won the $10,000 grand prize from sponsor Laurel Road for her poster, “Decoding Pregnancy Loss: Validating a Novel Genetic Biomarker of Poor Egg Quality” (PDF).

The three-judge panel that voted on the five posters in the event finale praised Biswas’ research for its intersectional and translational value in solving a widespread health problem.

“It was a very impressive set of portfolio and techniques that will lead us to answer a very important question,” said Judge Sanjay Desai, MD, Director of Studies for the AMA.

About 10% of American women are diagnosed with infertility. Biswas aimed to investigate the problem further to find additional factors that contribute to infertility beyond maternal age.

Although maternal age is a key determinant of the formation of chromosomally abnormal eggs (called “aneuploids”), age does not predict egg aneuploidy for all women. Thus, Biswas sought to identify genetic markers that caused egg aneuploidy independent of maternal age.

To do this, Biswas studied enriched genetic variants in women with high rates of egg aneuploidy relative to maternal age. She tested these genetic variants in mouse eggs. The immediate next step is to further validate these results in our mouse models with additional experimental replicates. Next, Biswas will explore in greater depth the molecular mechanisms linking genetic variants and infertility. In the long term, research translation will require the analysis of these same biomarkers in a large group of human research subjects.

“The idea is that a doctor in the clinic, before [a patient] decided to get pregnant — sits with [that patient] …and do a blood draw, do a genetic test for biomarkers, combine that with maternal age, and then they can come up with a care plan and a pregnancy plan together that works for them,” Biswas said during a recent episode of the AMA Making the Rounds Podcast.

“Maybe it’s starting a family earlier if there’s someone who’s going to have a lot of aneuploid eggs at an earlier age than expected,” Biswas added. “Or it could be egg donation. It could be IVF. Maybe it’s adoption. It’s whatever makes sense both clinically and personally to the patient and physician.

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The AMA Research Challenge offers aspiring young physicians a chance to showcase their research on a meaningful stage. While nearly 1,200 participants submitted research poster abstracts, approximately 800 were selected to present posters as part of the virtual event. A semi-final brought together 50 presenters with the highest scoring searches. From this group, a list of five finalists rose to the top. The overall level of research made the decision particularly difficult on the panel of three expert judges.

“Everybody’s a winner,” said Judge Clyde Yancy, MD, associate dean of diversity and inclusion, professor of medicine and medical social sciences, and head of the division of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School. of Medicine. “It’s so important to understand at this point in your research career that the opportunity to succeed in discovery science is a catalyzing moment that allows your career to continue.”

Biswas was selected as the winner during an event streamed on YouTube. Upon hearing the news, she was lost.

“I’m shocked,” Biswas said. “My heart is beating very fast. … I am very flattered. The searches of my colleagues in the final and semi-final were remarkable. It was an incomparable and exciting group of clinicians and research students. So, I feel very lucky to be selected as the winner.

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As the largest multi-specialty event, the AMA Research Challenge focuses on a wide range of topics. The projects of the other four AMA Research Challenge finalists focused on the use of AI in pancreatic cancer detection, audio-visual feedback to improve manual ventilation, and a new therapeutic target in neuroblastoma.

Each of the five finalists has appeared on recent episodes of the AMA’s “Making the Rounds” podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever podcasts are available. The episodes offer insight into each of their works and future ambitions.

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