Richard L. Stouffer, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Head of the Division of Reproductive Sciences at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), and Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, has received the 2010 Distinguished Research Award from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Stouffer is is credited with discoveries in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproduction in women.
“It’s a great honor to receive this prestigious award from my peers. This was totally unexpected, but I am really thrilled to receive it,” Dr. Stouffer said. “I’ve had great mentors and collaborators over the years, plus an excellent cadre of creative, motivated fellows and graduate students making this research possible.”
Dr. Stouffer’s research is focused on ovarian stimulation (COS) protocols in nonhuman primates that are identical to those used for infertility therapy in women. In these primates, his team examines the pathways and processes that result in periovulatory events, including egg maturation, ovulation and corpus luteum development. This work has revealed the critical importance of intra-ovarian factors, (e.g. the local actions of the steroid hormone progesterone produced by the luteinizing follicle and corpus luteum) for ovulation and luteal structure-function, as well as action within the uterus. Additionally, Dr. Stouffer’s team has characterized angiogenic factors produced in the primate ovary and their importance in the development of the vasculature necessary for normal preovulatory and luteal function. This work, in collaboration with Phil Patton, M.D., at OHSU, focuses on how alterations in those angiogenic factors are likely important in producing side effects during infertility protocols that result in ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Recently his team has been involved in research with Jon Hennebold, Ph.D., using rhesus monkey genome arrays to identify the global changes in gene activity in the ovulatory follicle, the corpus luteum throughout its lifespan in the second half of the menstrual cycle, including its demise at the end of the cycle, as well as what happens when the corpus luteum is exposed to chorionic gonadotropin and is rescued for continued function in early pregnancy. Dr. Stouffer states that very shortly as these papers become published, whole genome array data will be placed in a public database. Through these studies his team has described the changes in tens of thousands of genes, and investigators will be able study their gene/pathway of choice and its importance to follicular and luteal function, on a comparative basis to nonprimates as well as to women.
Finally, Dr. Stouffer’s team at OHSU, including Mary Zelinski, Ph.D., and David Lee, M.D., is also involved in prototype work on the monkey model as part of the Oncofertility Consortium directed by Northwestern University. The consortium is seeking ways to restore fertility in female cancer patients who’ve undergone curative therapy for cancer after cryopreserving ovarian tissue. The goal is for that tissue to be thawed out and then the individual follicles grown in vitro with the idea of getting to the stage of maturing an egg ready for classical in-vitro fertilization and then implantation.
Dr. Stouffer feels it a great privilege to work at the Primate Center and OHSU for the past 25 years. He believes that doing manipulations in primate studies, not possible in studies on women for logistic or ethical reasons, has made discoveries on ovarian regulation that can be applied to promoting or controlling fertility in women. He said, “I like to think that with the heavy emphasis these days on translational research that the findings from our studies, whether they are positive or negative, have important implications for future issues in women’s health.”