Research interests, current research projects and grants.
The Queen’s Medical Research Institute
47 Little France Crescent
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.
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.