BABY GE­NIUS In­fer­til­ity ex­pert Dr. Mandy Katz-jaffe gives pa­tients new hope

WITH HER REV­O­LU­TION­ARY AD­VANCE­MENTS IN GE­NETIC TEST­ING, DR. MANDY KATZ- JAFFE HAS BROUGHT NEW HOPE TO IN­FER­TIL­ITY PA­TIENTS ACROSS THE GLOBE

InStyle (USA) - - Directory - —SHALAYNE PULIA

Dr. Mandy Katz-jaffe is a pow­er­house sci­en­tist who has been help­ing fam­i­lies one em­bryo at a time since 2007. That is when she and her team at the Colorado Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Medicine (CCRM) in­tro­duced Com­pre­hen­sive Chro­mo­some Screen­ing (CCS), which tests for an ab­nor­mal num­ber of chro­mo­somes in em­bryos— a lead­ing cause of mis­car­riages in women 35 or older. With CCS, doc­tors can en­sure that only em­bryos with a full set of 23 chro­mo­somes are im­planted into pa­tients dur­ing IVF treat­ments. The prac­tice was quickly adopted by clin­ics world­wide, al­low­ing for the birth of tens of thou­sands of healthy ba­bies. Now, the Aus­tralian- born sci­en­tific di­rec­tor is also lead­ing a new lab at CCRM’S Colorado base ded­i­cated to erad­i­cat­ing hered­i­tary can­cers. “These fam­i­lies all have sto­ries about loved ones from ev­ery gen­er­a­tion dy­ing of breast can­cer, ovar­ian can­cer, colon can­cer,” she says. “We can elim­i­nate the can­cer mu­ta­tion from their fam­ily trees for­ever. By test­ing and im­plant­ing em­bryos that are can­cer- mu­ta­tion-free, ba­bies are born with the full po­ten­tial of life.”

START­ING IN STEM

Dr. Katz-jaffe ad­mits she’s faced op­po­si­tion along the way from peo­ple who told her she wouldn’t suc­ceed in her field, but she never let that kind of neg­a­tiv­ity get her down. In­stead, she looks to fe­male role mod­els like her grand­mother, who went back to col­lege at age 50 to earn a de­gree. “I come from a very strong fam­ily who taught me that my value is in­de­pen­dent of my gen­der,” she says, ad­ding that she hopes to pass on that wis­dom to her 11-year- old daugh­ter and 12-year- old son. “If I have a pas­sion and I know that some­thing could be achieved, I just go for it.”

SCI­ENCE IS HER CAN­VAS

“I’m not good at draw­ing. I’m not an artist. I let all my creativ­ity out in the lab,” she says. “And our fer­til­ity clinic has its own ge­net­ics lab, so our process can be re­ally pa­tient­driven.” The ex­pert adds that she loves split­ting time be­tween do­ing re­search and meet­ing with pa­tients. “Our job is to give the in­for­ma­tion and al­low pa­tients to make de­ci­sions based on all their re­li­gious, eth­i­cal, and mo­ral be­liefs.”

STAY­ING ZEN

Hav­ing pa­tience is nec­es­sary as a re­searcher, but it doesn’t come easy to her. “The big­gest frus­tra­tion for me is that I can’t get the new tech­nolo­gies that have enor­mous po­ten­tial out fast enough for our pa­tients,” she says. “And it’s not for lack of try­ing!”

NO SHAME IN HER GAME

It’s time to stop tak­ing fer­til­ity for granted. “There’s never a ques­tion in some­one’s mind like, ‘ Will I be able to have a child?’ We just as­sume that when we’re ready, it’s gonna hap­pen,” she notes. “We need to reed­u­cate peo­ple— one in six cou­ples needs med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. In­fer­til­ity is a dis­ease. Once peo­ple re­al­ize that, it will no longer be taboo.”

SPREAD­ING THE LOVE

The re­searcher is happy to see CCS be­ing uti­lized by other fer­til­ity clin­ics. “To know that there are healthy ba­bies born all over the world be­cause of what we de­vel­oped here, that’s re­ally some­thing I am humbly very proud of.”

Clock­wise, from left: Dr. Mandy Katz-jaffe; the ge­neti­cist at work; an em­bryo be­ing biop­sied.

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