Researcher Spotlights

Researcher Spotlight

Werner Neuhausser, M.D., Ph.D.

Grant Project Title:

Identification of transcriptomic and epigenetic coordinates for post-implantation human embryonic development

Grant Amount:

$666,000

Significance:

Post-implantation human embryonic development beyond the blastocyst stage is pertinent to a variety of disorders in human reproduction such as implantation failure, fetal defects, placental insufficiencies and early pregnancy loss. However, our knowledge of cell-lineage decisions in the post-implantation human embryo remains severely limited and there is a critical need to explore the molecular control underlying the formation of trophoblast, epiblast and hypoblast lineages and the events surrounding implantation and gastrulation. In addition, it remains one of the premier goals of reproductive medicine to identify effective biomarkers that predict successful post-implantation development and pregnancy following uterine transfer of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos. Our long-term goal is to understand cellular differentiation in the post-implantation human embryo at the molecular level and develop novel genomic predictors of pregnancy outcomes for pre-implantation testing of IVF embryos. This project aims to delineate the transcriptomic and epigenomic changes underlying human post-implantation lineage development and use this dataset to develop transcriptional and epigenetic predictors of successful implantation and gastrulation using a human post-implantation model in vitro.
We are immensely grateful to the ASRM Research Institute for supporting this project. It is very difficult to obtain funding for this line of research because the NIH currently restricts research projects involving reproductive medicine. As such, the ASRM Research Institute plays an important and unique role in funding basic research in human embryology and this support will unlock the tremendous translational potential in this field going forward. In our case it allows us to use cutting edge single cell multiome sequencing technology to address a fundamental question in reproductive biology – what are the molecular building blocks of a successful post-implantation human embryo and how can these single cell genomic technologies be used to identify high implantation potential embryos prior to uterine transfer?
Werner Neuhausser, MD PhD
Instructor in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Division of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School


Eve Feinberg, M.D.

Grant Project Title:

Characterizing Fertility Concerns among Women in Academic Medicine and Evaluating the Economic Impact of Fertility Preservation for Deferred Reproduction

Grant Amount:

$50,000

Significance:

Although women are more likely than men to pursue a career in academic medicine, they also tend to leave academic medicine, reduce their work hours, or reroute their careers during their childbearing years. In addition, many female physicians delay childbearing, and studies have documented higher rates of infertility, obstetric complications, and childlessness in female physicians relative to the general population. Female physicians report high levels of interest in fertility preservation and assisted reproduction technology (ART) options. Two primary factors that may prevent women in academic medicine from undergoing oocyte vitrification at younger ages (≤ 35 years old) include a lack of awareness regarding the importance of age on the efficiency and success of fertility preservation and the high costs of fertility preservation without adequate insurance coverage. The purpose of this project was to investigate and characterize the unique fertility concerns of women in academic medicine and examine female physicians’ understanding of the role of age in determining the efficiency and success of fertility preservation options.

The ASRM research institute grant was instrumental in beginning my work to explore the challenges faced by women in medicine with regard to fertility and family building concerns. The literature has shown a large degree of gender disparity in academic promotion and rank and the theme of fertility and family building and how that has been a contributing factor has previously not been explored. This grant allowed me to do some foundational research upon which I hope to build and really helped to get this project off the ground. I am tremendously appreciative of the support from ASRM in this work.
Eve Feinberg, MD
Associate Professor of OB/GYN, specializing in REI at Northwestern University

 
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Amanda Kallen, M.D.

Grant Project Title:

Novel, Noncoding-RNA-Mediated Mechanisms for Regulation of Follicular Quantity and Quality

Grant Amount:

$50,000

Significance:

Reproductive health issues as serious as miscarriage, birth defects, and the loss of fertility due to advancing age or exposure to gonadotoxic agents can frequently be traced back to a decline in oocyte quality and/or quantity. Dr. Kallen's studies have the potential to define noncoding RNAs as major regulators of ovarian reserve and are directly related to the NIH Fertility and Infertility Branch’s mission of supporting research that enhances our understanding of normal reproduction and reproductive pathophysiology.

The importance of the ASRM research grant in my career development cannot be overstated. The ASRM grant, which came at a time when I needed bridge funds to “stay in the game” as an REI physician-scientist transitioning to independence, paved the way for me to successfully obtain independent NIH funding. My ASRM funding allowed me to complete ongoing studies, continue building on preliminary data, and successfully respond to critiques from prior R01 submissions. The culmination of these ASRM-supported efforts was an R01 submission which was scored at the first percentile! This work, and this achievement, would simply not have been possible without ASRM’s support, and I am so incredibly grateful for the resources, support, and demonstrated commitment to young physician-scientists by this incredible organization.
Amanda N. Kallen, MD
Associate Professor, Yale Medicine
Division of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences