EU/Interreg, Region Hovedstaden, Region Skåne and Ferring are supporting ReproUnion with EUR 2.3 million* to carry out additional reproductive research, which will assess the impact of the COVID-19 virus on fertility, pregnancy, and fetus.
Since June 2020 infertile couples from the Øresund region have participated in the new ReproUnion Biobank and Infertility Cohort (RUBIC). The biological specimens that are being collected can now also contribute to assessing whether the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has an impact on the reproductive system. One among several questions to address is whether the virus can be traced in the male reproductive organs and if it can compromise sperm quantity and quality or even be sexually transmitted.
“We will also look to other cohorts and when it comes to the female reproductive system, we expect to contribute to an increased understanding of whether COVID-19 affects the prognosis of assisted reproductive treatment as well as how the virus infection affects the female reproductive organs and if it can be transmitted to the fetus and new-born child,” says Professor Henriette Svarre Nielsen, who is part of ReproUnion.
Research is ongoing between scientists in ReproUnion to better understand follicle activation, growth and maturation. The additional funding facilitates access to state-of-the-art single-cell techniques, developed for reproductive research at the University of Copenhagen. New research will contribute to knowledge on the risk of infection in different cell-types, including if receptors for the COVID-19 virus are expressed in the ovarian tissue.
“By combining the resources and competences on both sides of Øresund we stand a better chance to analyse implications from the COVID-19 virus on the reproductive system in both men and women. We can gather a larger critical mass of patients and we can facilitate unique cross-border analysis,” says Petter Hartman, CEO of Medicon Valley Alliance.
There is ongoing speculation on how the pandemic is influencing the fertility rate in different countries. With the additional funding ReproUnion’s Fertility Awareness team will research the impact on building families. Researchers will study register-data and carry out qualitative interviews with couples in both Denmark and Sweden – in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cooperativeness and the ability to see common solutions are vital in times like this and ReproUnion plays an important role as a model to address health challenges, now and in the future. Not only can the cross-border collaboration contribute to more babies being born by identifying and addressing the fertility challenges. It can also help attract funding and international scientists to the Greater Copenhagen region, for the benefit of both patients and the countries’ prosperity,” said Gilbert Tribo from Region Skåne, in a recent opinion piece in Sydsvenskan.
* The total funding of EUR 2.3 mio. comes from: Interreg Öresund-Kattegat-Skagerrak EUR 1.17 mio; Ferring Pharmaceuticals EUR 500 000; Region Skåne EUR 370 000; Region Hovedstaden EUR 300 000.