MRC Centre for Reproductive Health

Professor Richard Anderson

Research interests, current research projects and grants.

Professor Richard Anderson

Elsie Inglis Professor of Clinical Reproductive Science

  • BSc(Hons), PhD, MB. ChB, MRCOG, MD, CCST, FRCOG, FRC(Ed)
  • Head of Section, Obstetrics and Gynaecology (University of Edinburgh)

Research Interests

Women are born with a finite number of germ cells (GC), which cannot be replaced. Understanding of how female reproductive potential is established is thus central to knowledge of human fertility and its disorders, how early development might impact on adult function, and to any attempt to alter its regulation. We have now established a programme of studies which address not which factors might be relevant to these processes in the fetal ovary and directly address their functional roles and interactions in the human. These studies are informed by animal data, although often requiring refinement to translate both growth factor expression patterns and function to the human. Our work has included GC development leading up to primordial follicle formation, as the essential structures underpinning female fertility. We also study earlier stages in GC and gonadal development, when GCs are proliferating rapidly and subsequently entering meiosis.  This is itself a key event both limiting further GC proliferation and being the first stage towards ensuring correct oocyte chromosomal arrangement for successful fertilisation and embryo formation. Understanding of both intrinsic and extrinsic GC factors regulating proliferation and survival, and the regulation of entry into meiosis is crucial for a fuller picture of how the ovary develops. Together with Dr Evelyn Telfer, we are developing recent advances in laboratory techniques to support human oocyte development in vitro from primordial follicles through antral stages to full maturation, meiotic resumption and potentially analysis of developmental potential.

These laboratory-based studies are complimented by clinical studies addressing reproductive function in women with accelerated follicle loss from cancer therapies.  These studies will improve understanding of the impact of chemotherapy on ovarian function to determine the mechanisms of this toxicity, explore clinical assessment methods, and to allow improved patient information.

Current research projects

  • Human ovarian development
  • Development of ovarian cryopreservation for fertility preservation
  • Regulation of human follicle growth
  • Effects of chemotherapy on oocyte and follicle development
  • Regulation of the HPG axis by kisspeptin and neurokinin b.


Systematic investigation of the effect of chemotherapeutic agents on the ovary using an ovarian follicle culture system. Norah Spears (PI), Evelyn Telfer, Richard Anderson and Charlie Gourley. MRC 2011-2014.

Developmental and meiotic potential of oocytes derived from human ovarian germ line stem cells. Evelyn Telfer and Richard Anderson. MRC 2013-2016.

1/07/08-30/06/11 MRC Experimental Medicine G0701682 Kisspeptin antagonists as novel regulators of reproductive function and as potential therapeutics for hormone dependent pathologies. With RP Millar.

1/08/2009-30/07/2011 World Health Organisation and CONRAD Project A25165 Sperm suppression and contraceptive protection provided by norethisterone enanthate (Net-En) combined with testosterone undecanoate (TU) in healthy men.

2010-14. Medical Research Foundation; A prospective study of gonadal toxicity and ovarian tissue cryostorage for fertility preservation in young women with Hodgkin Lymphoma. Investigators PWM Johnson, RA Anderson, G Galea, B Mead.

1/04/2010-31/03/2013 MRC project grant G0901839 Activation of human ovarian follicles and derivation of competent oocytes. With EE Telfer and KJ Thong.

1/05/2011-17/02/2017 MRC Programme grant Establishment and loss of reproductive lifespan in women.

1/06/2010-31/05/2010 Medical Research Scotland Fellowship award (Dr AJ Childs). Establishing reproductive potential: regulation of germ cell development in the human fetal ovary.

1/04/2011-31/03/2016 Medical Research Council Centre grant Establishment of MRC/University of Edinburgh Centre for Reproductive Health With PTK Saunders, HOD Critchley, JE Norman.

Staff/group members

  • Norma Forson
  • Roseanne Rosario
  • Anne Saunderson
  • Jackie Young (PA)

PhD students:

  • Cheryl Dunlop
  • Kelsey Grieve

Recent awards for research group

  • 2016 ESHRE Basic Science oral communication prize: ‘ABVD chemotherapy for lymphoma affects number and morphology of primordial follicles in the adolescent and adult ovary.’ McLaughlin M, Kelsey TW, Wallace WHB, Anderson RA, Telfer EE.
  • 2016 ESHRE Basic science poster prize shortlist: ‘"Neurokinin B receptor antagonism suppresses ovarian follicle growth and delays ovulation in healthy women’. Skorupskaite K, George, JT, Anderson RA.
  • 2016  Kelsey Grieve   Larry Ewing Memorial Trainee Travel Fund Award and 2016 USDA–NIFA–AFRI Merit Award, SSR annual meeting.
  • 2016 Dr K Skorupskaite Endocrine Society Outstanding Abstract Award, ENDO 2016.
  • 2016 Dr K Skorupskaite Best Young Clinician award, British Fertility Society annual meeting.
  • 2015 Dr J George Clinical Endocrinology Trust Prize, best clinical abstract.
  • 2015 Dr J George Clinical science prize, ESHRE annual meeting.
  • 2015 Dr R Rosario Travel award for XVIth International Workshop on the Development and Function of the Reproductive Organs, Munster.
  • 2015 Dr J George Endocrine Society Outstanding Abstract Award, ENDO 2015.
  • 2015 Dr K Skorupskaite Trainee award to attend ENDO 2015.
  • 2015 Dr K Skorupskaite Travel award to COST Training School in ‘Neuroendocrine Control of Reproduction’, Prato, Italy.
  • 2015 Dr K Skorupskaite ‘Kisspeptin-10 enhances the effects of positive estrogen feedback on LH and FSH secretion in women’. Selected SE Scotland trainee presentation for Annual Scottish O&G consultants meeting, Dunkeld; subsequent prize abstract award.
  • 2014 Dr CE Dunlop ‘Scrambling an ovary to make and egg: the isolation, characterisation and in vitro culture of ovarian stem cells’. Selected SE Scotland trainee presentation for Annual Scottish O&G consultants meeting, Dunkeld.

Principal collaborators

  • E Telfer
  • N Spears
  • D Cameron

External activities

  • Scottish Government Children and Families Directorate, ‘Gamete group’ member and Chair, ‘Fertility preservation’ committee (from 2016)
  • British Fertility Society guideline group ‘Establishing protocols for fertility preservation in young women
  • Working Group Lead of the Subcommittee of the FIGO Work Group on Reproductive and Environmental Health.
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Contraception Discovery and Development Branch, National Institute for Child Health and Development, USA (from 2005)
  • Chair, NICHD CDDB data monitoring and safety committee (from 2008)
  • WHO Research Group in Methods for the Regulation of Male Fertility (from 1999)
  • Chair, ‘E-Freeze’ trial TSC (from 2015)
  • ‘Got-It’ trial TSC (from 2015)
  • Data management Committee ‘Eggcell’ trial (from 2016)
  • RCOG Scientific Advisory Committee member 2006-2012
  • Chair, RCOG Scientific Advisory Committee 2009-2012
  • ESHRE guideline group; ‘Primary Ovarian Insufficiency’ member 2011-2015
  • HFEA Multiple Births group RCOG representative, 2011-2013
  • British Fertility Society Policy and Practice Committee 2006-2013
  • ESHRE Task Force on Fertility Preservation 2011-2015
  • Scottish Multicentre Research Ethics Committee 2006-2012