Having just completed her first semester as a master’s student in the University of Hawaiʻi medical school’s Developmental and Reproductive Biology program, Marissa Miyagi was drawn to the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART) research after meeting a woman who was struggling to become pregnant. Through the use of ARTs, the woman was able to conceive and give birth to a child.
“Technologies such as ARTs are a source of hope for patients on days that are long and difficult as they deal with their diagnoses,” said Miyagi. “By continuing this research, I will hopefully contribute to further advancements which will help people have the family they never thought would be possible.”
Miyagi’s research, “Three-Dimensional (3D) Ovarian Tissue Culture Supported by Dextran Hydrogel with Polyethylene Glycol Crosslinker,” was named “Best Graduate Student Poster Presentation” at the 2021 Annual Biomedical Sciences and Health Disparities Symposium hosted by UH Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
Helping cancer patients
When women undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat cancer, it can have a negative effect on their fertility. Hormonal treatment is essential for fertility preservation methods that involve the freezing of oocytes (immature egg cells) and embryos. Miyagi is currently investigating the effects of different synthetic hydrogels on follicle growth and oocyte development using an ovarian tissue culture system. She is using the 3D culture system established by the lab of Yukiko Yamazaki, JABSOM associate professor, where Miyagi was previously a volunteer student for the past two years.
“We found that the Dextran-PEG-Link hydrogel successfully supported follicle growth and oocyte development, and that RGD (tripeptide Arg-Gly-Asp) supplementation enhanced these results,” said Miyagi. “This is significant, as using non-animal derived materials is an important step towards applying our system to humans.”
Miyagi is passionate in the fight against cancer, and hopes to enter a career that combines research with patient care.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Dr. Yamazaki’s lab, as I am able to combine my passion for helping others with my love of science and innovation. I believe our research can contribute to providing cancer patients with more options in the future.”
This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.