We want to improve health of women and children by discovering how the ovary generates oocytes and releases them for fertilisation in the creation of a new and healthy individual.
The Ovarian Cell Biology group is investigating how somatic cells in the ovary nurture the oocyte and endow it with the capacity and essential components to form an embryo, and then trigger its timely release for fertilisation. An understanding in this area could lead to improvements in areas of fertility and healthy embryo development.
Using genetic and dietary mouse models of obesity, we have shown that the detrimental effects of obesity on female reproduction and embryo development commence with dramatic alterations in oocyte quality. We have found that oocytes in obese mice contain high levels of lipid and mitochondrial dysfunction. In collaboration with Fertility SA, we have been able to verify similar changes in obese women.
Our most recent studies in mice show that obesity-induced mitochondrial disturbance in oocytes persist into offspring tissues, an important finding for understanding the transmission of obesity between generations. Most importantly, we have discovered a class of compounds that, when administered to obese female mice before conception, prevent the mitochondrial changes in oocytes.
The aim of the Ovarian Cell Biology group is to discover the biological mechanisms by which ovarian cells act as the conduit between maternal physiological signals, the release of the egg, and the healthy development of offspring. We aim to use this knowledge to improve female reproductive health, generate new approaches to treat infertility, and optimise embryo growth in all pregnancies.
Lead researcher: Professor Rebecca Robker
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