Local scientists named finalists in Premier’s Science Awards


Fertility research Melanie Walls; Geoscientist Professor Zheng-Xiang Li.
Local scientists named finalists in Premier’s Science Awards
Fertility research Melanie Walls; Geoscientist Professor Zheng-Xiang Li.

A FERTILITY researcher from East Victoria Park and a South Perth geoscientist are finalists in the Premier’s Science Awards.

Melanie Walls was short-listed for her work that shows IVM (In Vitro Maturation) is as successful as normal IVF when the embryos were replaced after a frozen embryo transfer.

She is a PhD student at UWA’s School of Women’s and Infant’s Health, and a senior clinical embryologist and researcher with the Fertility Specialists of WA and Fertility Specialists South.

“The basic principle behind IVM is that instead of lots of injections and high doses of hormones given to the patient, the eggs are collected early, after very small amounts of drugs or none at all, and the hormones are added into the solution the eggs are cultured in,” she said.

“We are very lucky in Australia that Medicare covers the cost of these medications; however in most countries this is not the case and IVM can be a much cheaper alternative to normal IVF.”

It eliminated the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which is most common in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

“Additionally, we can use IVM to collect and freeze eggs in young women diagnosed with cancer, who need to start chemotherapy as soon as possible after being diagnosed,” she said.

Her PhD also looked at whether the eggs and embryos developed in the same way, using time-lapse incubation and ‘morphokinetics’.

“This means that the embryos are placed in an incubator that takes a photo of the embryo every 10 minutes and puts together a video over five to six days,” she said.

“We can use these videos to closely monitor the important changes and any abnormal events that might occur.”

This research led to the world’s first live birth from a combination of IVM and morphokinetics in 2013.

South Perth geoscientist Professor Zheng-Xiang Li, of Curtin University’s School of Mines, is also a finalist for the award.

Prof Li has pushed the boundaries of knowledge about the evolution of Earth, making important contributions to the field of tectonics and geodynamics.

He was pivotal in building WA’s major research centres for geoscience and is leading an international geoscience project, which is highly relevant to Perth mineral and resource industries.

Prof Li is Australian co-director of the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources.