Helping Her Patients Become Mothers
Dr. Geneviève Genest is a familiar name in the Montreal General Hospital’s Immunology Department, and that’s no surprise. Her research projects have drawn the attention of doctors and the general population, for good reason: her work focuses on fertility problems. As close to one out of six couples in Canada experiences fertility problems, it is easy to understand why so many people are interested in Dr. Genest’s work.
More precisely, her research focuses on women who are incapable of becoming pregnant or carrying a fetus to term despite test results that appear normal. Her hypothesis is that the problem may be down to a uterine immune system imbalance.
A woman’s uterine immune system is a highly specialized mechanism equipped to accommodate pregnancy. In addition to protecting mothers and babies against microbial infection, it plays a fundamental role in conception and sustaining a pregnancy. It also accepts spermatozoa and the fetus as though they shared the mother’s DNA.
At this time, imbalances in the uterine immune system are extremely difficult to diagnose due to an absence of non-invasive tests. However, this medical condition is probably treatable with immunoglobulin, a medicine that is already on the market and approved for use by pregnant women.
At the Montreal General Hospital, fifteen women who were thought to have this kind of imbalance were treated with immunoglobulin under the supervision of Dr. Genest and her mentor, Dr. Gold. Although these women constitute a very small sample, the initial results are promising: thirteen participants now have a child! This number will soon grow, as other women followed by Dr. Genest are currently pregnant and will be giving birth over the coming months.
Dr. Genest recently completed a fellowship in clinical reproductive immunology in Toronto. Her research projects on the uterine immune system and its impact on fertility have received support from the Montreal General Hospital Foundation since 2015.