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NIH Funds Research Center for Women's Reproductive Health at Einstein

Center is the only one in New York state.

March 20, 2009 — (BRONX, NY) — The National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University a $7.5 million grant to establish a Specialized Cooperative Center Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research (SCCPIR). One of only 13 such centers in the country and the only one in New York State, the new center will focus on a wide range of diseases of the female reproductive tract, including menstrual disorders, endometriosis, and infertility.

Jeffrey W. Pollard, Ph.D.
Jeffrey W. Pollard, Ph.D.
"The grant will allow us to launch new studies of reproductive biology and to position Einstein as the focus of such studies for the entire state," says Jeffrey W. Pollard, Ph.D., professor of developmental and molecular biology and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health, who will be leading the new center.

Created in 1997, the SCCPIR program promotes interactions among basic and clinical scientists. The goal is to translate breakthroughs in fundamental understanding of key reproductive processes into clinical practice, and promptly address in the laboratory questions that arise in the clinic. The centers also serve as national resources for training and developing the careers of new scientists who choose to pursue research in high priority areas of reproduction and infertility research.

Einstein's SCCPIR will concentrate on basic studies of endometrial biology and reproductive neuroendocrinology, with a particular emphasis on the reproductive health needs of the local Bronx community. (A complete list of the studies appears below.) "Research in reproductive biology has profoundly and positively influenced women's health in the last few decades," says Dr. Pollard. "More recently, the new technologies have enabled us to make great strides in understanding the basic biology of fertility and reproduction in animal models. This funding will help us determine whether the same biochemical pathways that we've identified in rodents are also operative in humans and then apply those findings to clinical practice."

"Our studies will have implications for the health of women in general. But we are particularly concerned with reproductive health in the Bronx, and this center will continue a profound partnership between Einstein and Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein," adds Dr. Pollard, who also is the Louis Goldstein Swan Chair in Women's Cancer Research. "Obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are especially common here in the local community. Each of these conditions is strongly associated with reproductive tract diseases — particularly infertility, endometriosis, and endometrial cancer."

Endometriosis, the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, is one of the most common gynecological diseases, affecting more than 5.5 million women in North America. According to the NICHD, an estimated 2 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age have endometriosis. The two most common symptoms of the disease are pain and infertility. About 30 to 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile. In 2008, 40,100 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with endometrial cancer, another disease of abnormal cell growth in the endometrium, and 7,470 died of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"We are delighted to establish a SCCPIR at Einstein," adds Nanette Santoro, M.D., professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health. "The grant is highly competitive and this was the last year in which new sites could be added. In addition to having funds for our own research, the grant allows us to interact with the other SCCPIR sites nationwide and conduct collaborative studies relevant to our areas of interest."

Research Projects and Principal Investigators at Einstein's Specialized Cooperative Center Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research

  • "Estrogen and Progesterone Regulation of Human Endometrial Cell Proliferation" — Drs. Pollard and Santoro.
  • "Reproductive Hormonal Alterations in Obesity" — Dr. Santoro, Maureen Charron, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health, and of medicine; and Alex Polotsky, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health.
  • "IGF-I and Neuroendocrine Regulation of Female Reproductive Function" — Anne Etgen, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and of pediatrics; and Genevieve Neal-Perry, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health and of neuroscience.
  • "Antagonistic actions of melanocortins and leptin on reproductive competence" — Streamson Chua, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and of neuroscience.