Ovarian Cell Biology
The Ovarian Cell Biology group is a collaborative research team elucidating hormonal, nutritional and intra-ovarian regulatory mechanisms governing ovarian functions; specifically the release of mature fertilisation competent oocytes and the production of steroid hormones.
Within the ovary, specific cell types are arranged into follicle structures with unique and highly specialised functions. These cells coordinate a growth-promoting microenvironment in which oocytes undergo an intricate progressive developmental process. Follicle cells integrate maternal cues to direct the growth and timely release of the oocyte, and determine its capacity to form an embryo.
The research aims of the group are to understand how distinct maternal signals establish and modulate this niche environment, and how it dictates the differentiation and successful release (ovulation) of oocytes. The research focuses broadly on cellular mechanisms that control these ovarian functions, including hormone action, regulation of transcription, intercellular communication, cell-matrix interactions, cellular migration and proteolytic tissue remodelling.
Overall, the group's work is revealing basic molecular processes critical for reproductive success and elucidating maternal hormone, immunological and metabolic inputs through which modern lifestyle and environment impact on the health of the oocyte and hence a healthy start to life.
In 2009 the group found that the ovarian follicular environment of obese women is dramatically different than that of moderate weight women; specifically there were high levels of insulin, glucose and particularly lipids in the ovarian fluid surrounding the oocytes of obese women.
The group also found that the ovarian lymphatic system develops postnatally under the regulation of lymphangiogenic growth factors and proteolytic enzymes. Further research of the group has resulted in very novel findings that the cells of the cumulus oocyte complex adopt a migratory phenotype at the time of ovulation.
- Identifying molecular mechanisms that control ovulation
- Identifying biomarkers of oocyte developmental competence
- Understanding regulation of lipid metabolism in the cumulus-oocytecomplex
- Determining why maternal obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) impair ovulation and diminish oocyte developmental competence
- Molecular control of ovarian primordial follicle activation
- Investigating how immune cells influence ovarian function
- Elucidating development and function of the ovarian lymphatic system