The ARBL, starting point of 5,000 births

Expert embryologists are an essential link in medically assisted reproduction. By your side with the fertility medicine teams, they work tirelessly so that you can achieve your plan to have a family.

For 20 years, Dr Marie-Pierre Primi, head of the Andrology and Reproductive Biology Laboratory (ARBL) at the CHUV, has taken part in innumerable births. "When the embryos that we have taken care of and have seen develop in our laboratory for several days lead to a pregnancy, it's marvellous news every time!", effuses this expert in in vitro fertilisation.

At each stage of the treatments,she takes good care of the relationship she forms with couples who come to the RMU. With her melodious accent, this French biologist appreciates being able to tell them their results in person: "Telling them their fertilisation results, for example, is always followed by very varied reactions by the couples, depending on whether they have gone through their first treatment cycle, already have a child, or have already experienced a previous implantation failure. It is thus very important to explain the results in a personalised way and always be available to those who need additional help to understand the situation".

Consequently, "we experience waiting for a pregnancy test with them. In the event of failure, we analyse the reason why with the medical team and seek to understand what went wrong in terms of the egg cells and spermatozoids or their coming together so that we can explain this to the couples and offer them options for the rest of their treatments," adds Dr Primi. "Failure is also difficult for us," she admits. "Having said that, there is always a part of the embryonal development process which has not involved us in the laboratory. But for everything that involves our intervention in fertilising the gametes couples entrust to us and cultivating the resulting embryos, it is our responsibility to be impeccable in what we do," says the scientist.

Established experts in medically assisted reproduction (MAR)

Thanks to the state-of-the-art technological environment, accredited with strict quality marks, the professionals at the ARBL have, for over 30 years, practised in vitro fertilisation or ICSI,in compliance with the law and upholding the dignity of the couples and of the first living cells they provide.

These carefully chosen and internationally trained specialists take care of the impregnated egg cells, their freezing, thawing and transfer. "To maintain our standards, we undergo regular training in Switzerland and abroad," explains Dr Primi. The ARBL also undertakes sperm analysis, insemination with donor or partner sperm, and keeps the sperm bank where the sperm is housed. "Because of very strict selection criteria, the donations are just sufficient to meet demand," says the biologist.

Experts in the preservation of fertility

As a new feature, for some years we have developed programmes for the preservation of fertilityin adults and children, both female and male, for medical or so-called social reasons.

"We want to offer our patients and all patients the chance to become parents one day, which stimulates us to develop new solutions," explains Dr Primi. Also, in cancer cases, the ARBL can take samples from the ovaries of women or very young girls, or samples from the immature testicles of prepubertal boys, sometimes aged a few months only. The collected tissues are then frozen for an unlimited time until they can be used at some point in the future. The ARBL works in conjunction with the oncologists and paediatric oncologists at the CHUV as well as in Geneva, Fribourg and even Belgium. However, the specialist states that, "The freezing techniques for these tissues are certainly promising, but they are constantly being developed, and advances are expected in the next few years."

With regard to preservation of fertility for social purposes,by freezing the egg cells, the demand is coming from an entirely new type of patient. These are women in their thirties, generally unmarried, who have entered training or a career and who want to defer having children without thereby compromising their chances of success due to age. "The preservation of fertility for social purposes is a rapidly growing field and we ought to be able to respond to it without making a value judgement," comments Dr Primi. "Everything is done within the framework defined by the law (RMA) in this case, as in all other assisted reproduction cases," she explains reassuringly.

Experts looking to the future

From 1 September 2017, important changes have allowed couples to maximise their chances of becoming a parent These changes notably involve the possibility of culturing up to a dozen impregnated egg cells, authorisation to freeze embryos after their prolonged culture and authorisation to perform preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). "The impact on our work will be very significant. We are already trained in this new technology and will continue to keep ourselves up to date so that we can offer the best care for our couples," concludes the head of the ARBL.

Did you know?

The first baby resulting from MAR in Lausanne was a little boy born in the CHUV in July 1986, following in vitro fertilisation in the ARBL. Again in the CHUV, in June 1995, a little girl was born as the first baby conceived following a direct injection of spermatozoids into the egg cell (ICSI).

Today, more than five million babies have been born throughout the world thanks to IVF and ICSI!

Photo: ©Lauriane Aeby, SAM - CHUV
Text: Gabriella Sconfitti, Communications department - CHUV


Andrology and Reproductive Biology Laboratory
The ARBL is open from Monday to Friday, from 7.30 to 11.00 and 12.00 to 15.30.
It is located on the 7th floor of the Maternity Unit.
Reproductive medicine
CHUV Maternity Unit
Av. Pierre Decker 2
CH-1011 Lausanne
Tél. +41 21 314 31 61
Dr Marie-Pierre Primi, PhD
Tél. +41 21 314 34 26
 Last updated on 25/06/2020 at 14:05