In Canada, about one in six couples experience infertility in their family planning journey. For at least half of these couples, male factors are a contributing cause. Some are able to overcome these roadblocks through standard therapies. Yet for men with the most severe forms of infertility, even surgical intervention is not a viable solution.

Now, new advancements from Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC) bring fresh hope to couples struggling with infertility. Dr. Ryan Flannigan and his team have developed an artificial intelligence-based algorithm to microscopically detect very rare sperm from surgical samples. Their discovery has the potential to be a paradigm-shifting therapeutic advance for treating infertility in men.

For couples with no detectable sperm, they have recently 3D printed human testicular cells and identified promising early signs of sperm-producing capabilities. Such innovation could potentially be used to fertilize an egg in vitro. These advancements are world-firsts for scientists studying male infertility.

“We are 3D printing these cells into a very specific structure that mimics human anatomy, which we think is our best shot at stimulating sperm production. If successful, this could open the door to new fertility treatments for couples who currently have no other options,” Dr. Flannigan explains.

Dr. Ryan Flannigan earned his MD at University of Calgary, completed his urology residency at University of British Columbia. He went on to accomplish his fellowship training in Male Reproduction, Microsurgery and Sexual Medicine at the world-renowned Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York, NY. He was attracted to VPC by his mentor, Dr. Martin Gleave, and by the powerful discovery platform that exists here. He continues his work here because of the unique opportunity to innovate alongside the world’s best in the field.

Beyond infertility, Dr. Flannigan’s passions and practice also focuses on treatment and innovation in andrology (including Peyronies disease and penile implants) and sexual dysfunction. Over 50% of men and women will experience sexual dysfunction in their lifetime, so Dr. Flannigan’s team is working to rewire sexual medicine into a new paradigm of care. He is building a new technology ecosystem using artificial intelligence to increase commercialization opportunities via spinoff companies. This, in turn, increases access to these treatments for patients.

Today, Dr. Flannigan’s discoveries are putting the team on the global map for pioneering treatments for male reproductive health issues. In 2022, he won the prestigious Rising Stars in Urology Research Award from the American Urological Association and the Urology Care Foundation. This award, given to one urologist internationally per year, encourages contributions to urology from both surgical specialists and scientists investigating causes, prevention, treatment and cures that will improve patients’ lives. “Dr Flannigan’s innovative research brings together different advanced technologies to address previously unsolvable issues”, reads his award. “Efforts like his represent an exciting frontier paramount in the efforts of many to helping change the lives of others.”

Make a gift to the Urologic Sciences campaign and support superstars like Dr. Flannigan to help drive world-first studies and spark revolutions in care right here at home. With your support, VPC can continue to invest in people and provide BC patients and their partners with life changing therapies that re-ignite intimacy and give futures to families.

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