University of Chicago opens new center to focus on complex reproductive issues

October 25, 2005

On October 25, 2005, the University of Chicago moved its reproductive endocrinology and infertility services to a new state-of-the-art facility, the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Fertility, located on the second floor at 333 S. Desplaines Street (at the corner of Des Plaines and Van Buren), in Chicago’s West Loop area.

The Center is designed to provide care for individuals and couples with complicated infertility and reproductive disorders, including problems caused by age-related changes in fertility, cancer-associated damage to fertility potential, and genetic and surgical problems diminishing the ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy.

The nearly 9,000-square-foot center combines a comforting environment with the latest in medical technology and scientific knowledge, said David Cohen, MD, associate professor and section chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago.

The new facility has exam and consultation rooms, a conference area equipped for educational seminars and an assisted reproductive technology laboratory. In this lab, physicians and staff perform reproductive procedures and diagnostic services, including frozen embryo transfers, semen analysis, and freezing of egg, sperm and reproductive tissues.

Specialists provide a comprehensive range of services, from in-vitro fertilization to minimally invasive surgery to donor egg and sperm programs. They focus on complicated fertility and reproductive problems for both men and women.

"There are a lot of infertility centers in Chicago," Cohen said. "We decided to focus on one of our strengths, caring for patients with cancer and complicated fertility problems frequently involving family histories of genetic disease."

Among the services the new center provides is oocyte cryopreservation--a technological advancement of egg freezing and storage that helps preserve fertility for cancer patients and others, including women who are taking medications that are known to decrease fertility or who wish to delay having children. The center works with an international registry designed to monitor all children born after frozen eggs are thawed and fertilized.

Egg freezing is "a complicated process," Cohen said. Egg cells are the largest cells in a woman’s body and are composed largely of water, which increases the risk of crystallization when freezing, which "shreds apart the inside of the cell," Cohen said.

Cryoprotectants--chemicals that prevent the crystallization process--allow for freezing without damaging the eggs. "A continuing research focus of the center, Cohen said, "will be to determine the optimal conditions in which to freeze and thaw human eggs."

Experiencing reproductive problems can be an emotional roller coaster ride, "a cycle of disappointment, excitement and frustration," Cohen said. The center is dedicated to providing excellent care and critical study. "The specialists and center are here to provide the best patient care and advance the knowledge of the infertile couple and how to help them," he said.

The center is easily accessible by expressways and public transportation and offers free parking.

In 2005, U.S.News & World Report ranked the University of Chicago’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology as one of the best programs in the country.

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