Human health and the quality of life are significantly impacted by our understanding of the events that are critical for reproduction and development. The ability of couples to determine their reproductive potential, to be able to control how many children they have and when they are born, is critical for socioeconomic prosperity and stability. In terms of infertility, the rate has increased globally over the past several decades. In the U.S., nearly 10% of women 15 – 44 years of age are infertile and the number of individuals seeking infertility treatment is increasing annually, yet the modest live pregnancy rates from such therapies remain relatively low at ~40%. Because of the requirement for consistent long-term use of current contraceptive methods, a significant discontinuation rate and improper utilization results in a high level of unintended pregnancies. In the U.S., the unintended pregnancy rate is one of the highest for a developed country and exceeds 40%. Moreover, high worldwide unintended pregnancy rates contribute to the burgeoning global population that now approaches 8 billion. When pregnancy does occur, the health of the mother and fetus is determined by internal and external or environmental factors. Preterm labor, preeclampsia, and stillbirth affect nearly 15% of all pregnancies in the U.S. Many of the environmental and infectious agents that compromise fetal development and increase the risk of disease in the offspring do so by hampering placental function. Thus, the rationale is greater than ever for advancing our knowledge of reproductive biology, as well as fetal and neonatal development.
The mission of the Division of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences is to perform basic and applied research that will increase our understanding of primate reproduction and embryonic/fetal development and to use this knowledge to intervene in reproductive disorders, regulate fertility, as well as ensure normal fetal and neonatal development. Research projects span the continuum of reproductive processes from gamete and embryo development, through pregnancy initiation, placental function and maternal-fetal development, to delivery and neonatal health. Research groups utilize macaque species and baboons for whole animal, cellular and molecular studies of direct relevance to women’s and child health. Researchers are creating and using nonhuman primate models to investigate reproductive and developmental physiology, with the goal of considering the etiology, diagnosis, treatment of reproductive and developmental pathologies, as well as developing novel approaches to contraception. By employing assisted reproductive technologies with recently developed powerful genome editing techniques, Division scientists are also involved in creating nonhuman primate models of human diseases.
There are 17 scientists comprising the Division. Some have primary appointments in other ONPRC Divisions or the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, OHSU, but include the reproductive system as a major part of their research. While fostering the individuality of investigator’s research, the overarching theme is the formation of interdisciplinary groups performing translational research on critical issues in women’s reproductive health. Division faculty members are also committed to training the next generation of reproductive and developmental scientists, particularly those individuals that seek to improve human health through the use of clinically relevant nonhuman primate models.