A video link -- to life. Using the same technology friends call up to i-Chat, researchers at Northwestern instead are conducting an i-Experiment.
"Good morning, Johan. Good morning "
Northwestern Medicine's Dr. Teresa Woodruff kicks off a morning meeting from her office. Just a short walk down the hall researcher Min Xu sits at his microscope in the lab.
"This is the follicle isolated about two weeks ago. My question is, what should we do in order to gain maturation of this o-cyte?"
And thousands of miles away at the University of Brussels, Dr. Johan Smitz offers his insight.
Min Xu, Onco-fertility researcher: "I see your point. Maybe we'll do a smaller biopsy of this follicle"
A human follicle the rare raw material is the center of Dr. woodruff's research. Complicated but with a simple goal -- to help cancer patients conceive. When they have life-saving treatment, it robs them of the ability to create new life. So Dr. Woodruff removes the ovaries before treatment then hopes to spur them to grow viable eggs outside the body.
Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Northwestern Medicine Onco-fertility researcher: "Around the globe everyone is interested in understanding how to grow these follicles dynamically for the patient.
So Dr. Woodruff invited them to her lab via i-Experiment a system she and her team conceived so they could reach out to researchers around the world.Dr. Woodruff: "The way science usually works is you're really in your own laboratory, in your ivory tower doing the work and publishing a paper."
Not here. This is scientific collaboration. And i-Experiment makes it a little easier. The set-up is simple cameras and monitors provide the access. The ovaries, follicles and eggs supply the excitement.
Dr. Woodruff: "So as soon as we created the technology there became a vast interest, a 'Ccan I get aboard on this.'" Dr. Smitz in Belgium was one of the first -- others from Austria, Australia and South America followed -- all part of a highly-specialized group of scientists studying the same material but separated by oceans.
Dr. Woodruff: "There are very few people in the world who have observed human in vitro maturation. And so by bringing all these eyes on to a problem were able to see things and suggest things and move the science over much more rapidly." The technology came in handy when Dr. Woodruff and her colleagues discovered a significant step in egg maturation zinc sparks!
Dr. Woodruff: "Absolute brand new discovery. It turns out once you fertilize an egg the first thing it does is release zinc in a huge burst."
The more zinc, the better the quality of egg.
Dr. Woodruff: "In an article you get a flat image. You don't see the remarkable explosion, which you see here. We would have read about this in the paper. We might have talked with Johan at a meeting but he would not have been able to really see how remarkable that spark is."
i-Experiment may spark more collaborative breakthroughs -- that's the hope.
Dr. Smitz: "I think it is a fantastic opportunity because in real time we can share some pictures, we can look, in fact in real time, through the microscope to what we are culturing." Dr. Woodruff: "One of the things that I think we are doing, is that we are really making the global community much more closely knit."
To learn more about Dr. Woodruff's research, check out MyOncofertility.org