Reproduction and Development

The Discipline of Reproduction and Development teaches and researches the biology that regulates fertility and enables the conception and healthy development of each new individual.

Fetal ultrasound

The continuity of life for all species is dependent on successful reproduction followed by healthy development from conception through adolescence. Intricate genetic, epigenetic and environmental signals influence all stages of development, from the formation of gametes (eggs and sperm) to the events of fertilisation, implantation and pregnancy. Post-natal environmental conditions such as nutrition and stress also influence early life development of key organ systems, such as the brain, immune system, and reproductive system; including the gametes that carry developmental instructions for the next generation. Thus, lifetime and transgenerational health is influenced by biological signals contained within eggs and sperm and environmental influences throughout all stages of development.

The University of Adelaide is internationally recognised for its impactful discoveries and leadership in the fields of Reproduction and Development. It has led important advances in IVF technologies in reproductive medicine and for agricultural applications that are now used worldwide. It has also pioneered the field of developmental programming: the concept that molecular and environmental signals received during early life impact lifetime health and disease susceptibility.

Research excellence aimed at the big questions

The research teams within Reproduction and Development aim to answer the big questions in reproductive medicine, developmental biology and child health. This includes research into:

  • Prevalent fertility disorders including PCOS, Premature Ovarian Failure, male infertility, miscarriage, preeclampsia, and new therapeutic approaches.
  • The biology of oocytes, sperm, early embryo formation and placentation; for understanding aneuploidy, engineering stem cell reprogramming and improving organ transplantation.
  • Contraception development for animal population control and reproductive choices for women.
  • Environmental impacts on reproduction including toxicology and endocrine disruptors.
  • Genetic origins of childhood diseases, particularly developmental neurobiology and mitochondrial disease.

Teaching and research training in outstanding facilities

The field of Reproduction and Development impacts a spectrum of biological process and life events, enabling cross-cutting interdisciplinary research and offering unique opportunities for laboratory-based research training. Reproduction & Development laboratories are based throughout the Adelaide Biomed Precinct enabling access to the University’s most cutting-edge equipment and facilities. The research teams are closely aligned with SAiGENCI, IPAS and SAHMRI and some teams are embedded into hospital settings at WCH and at local fertility clinics. Other research units work closely with the agricultural industry at Roseworthy campus.

The academic staff are dedicated to fostering excellence and offer unique opportunities for laboratory-based research training. Our programs inspire and support students and postdoctoral trainees to reach their full potential as biomedical scientists and professionals, and include career development opportunities.

Our academics have widespread expertise and teach into the following courses and degree programs:

  • Reproductive Biology
  • Reproductive Health Matters
  • Biology of Childhood Health
  • Infant, Child and Adolescent Health
  • Innovating Health
  • 3rd year Research Placements (including Reproductive & Childhood Health, Medical Science)
  • MBBS and Bachelor of Medical Studies/Medical Doctorate programs
  • Honours (Biomedicine)
  • PhD by Research

Wide-ranging research

Our research groups include:

  • Ovarian cell biology and embryology

    Our research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which the ovary releases the oocyte (egg) at the right time for fertilisation and the critical environmental signals most important for embryo formation. Our goals are to discover fundamental biology as well as develop therapies that improve female fertility and promote healthy embryo development.

    Contact: Rebecca Robker

  • Collaborative research program in the discipline of Paediatrics

    Our research is focused on basic science and a translational component. We undertake gene discovery and functional validation in vitro and then access human clinical material to determine whether there is a causal link with disease.

    Contact: Simon Barry

  • Vascular Immunology in Pregnancy Research Group

    Our multidisciplinary research team brings together both immunology and vascular biology to understand what causes preeclampsia.

    Contact: Alison Care

  • Reproductive Success Team

    Our team is focused on using safe, cutting-edge, light-based technologies (also referred to as photonics) to better understand the biology that underpins successful development of the oocyte (egg) and early embryo.

    Contact: Kylie Dunning

  • The Early Origins of Health and Disease Research Group

    Our research aims to understand how exposures in pregnancy impact later health, and to develop and test interventions during and after pregnancy to reduce the impact of these exposures and improve health of offspring from birth to adulthood.

    Contact: Kathy Gatford

  • Neurobiology Research Group

    The Neurobiology Research Group is focused on understanding the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms of brain development.

    Contact: Lachlan Jolly

  • Male Reproductive Life Course Group

    Our research examines the biology of how disease risk is transferred via sperm and uses this knowledge to develop tests of risk and interventions for use in IVF practice and for family planning.

    Contact: Nicole McPherson

  • Reproductive Biotechnology Group

    Our research is focused on the general areas of reproductive biology and the development of associated technologies for biomedical and agricultural applications.

    Contact: Mark Nottle

  • Research in the Reproductive Immunology Group

    The research centres on three related themes:

    • Immune control of female reproductive investment and function
    • Pregnancy tolerance and its impact on embryo implantation, placental development, and pregnancy and offspring outcomes
    • Male seminal fluid factors that influence female pregnancy tolerance

    Contact: Sarah Robertson

  • Ovarian Cell Biology Research Group

    Our overarching goals are to discover key aspects of ovarian development that underpin our understanding of infertility and endocrine diseases involving the ovary, and to develop prevention and treatment strategies for these.

    Contact: Ray Rodgers

  • Intellectual Disability Research Laboratory

    Identification of genes and understanding of molecular mechanisms leading to intellectual disabilities, autisms and some epilepsies represents a challenge of significant medical importance. Our research seeks to further our understanding of human brain function through the identification of genes and characterisation of their naturally occurring mutations implicated in various disorders of the brain.

    Contact: Cheryl Shoubridge

  • Molecular Endocrinology of Female Reproduction

    Hormones exercise acute control of most aspects physiology and health.  Our research characterises how hormones elicit change in the function of their target organs.  We use molecular tools, high throughput functional genomics and drug screening to interrogate how hormone signals are sensed and characterise the genomic responses that lead to functional change.  Our goals are to develop therapies for endocrine dysfunction in cancer and infertility and develop improved contraceptives.

    Contact: Darryl Russell