Reproductive disorders

Medical Research Scotland is one of the largest and most comprehensive independent research charities in Scotland. Unlike most medical research charities, our funding isn't restricted to any one disease or condition, we support high-quality research that aims to improve the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all diseases and disease mechanisms.

Awards in the past 20 years

The following are some of the awards we made for research into disorders affecting the reproductive system.

£114,696 over two years to Dr Andrew J. Childs, Professor R.A. Anderson & Professor P.T. Saunders (MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, Edinburgh University), for an investigation of the regulation of germ cell development in the human fetal ovary in an effort to establish reproductive potential.
Following completion of this grant and publication of the results of the research (see summary below) in several peer-reviewed journals, Dr Childs was appointed to a lectureship at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, and has now established an independent research programme there which is building on this work.
Women are born with a finite number of eggs, which decline in number throughout life without being replaced. Menopause occurs when the reserve of eggs has been exhausted, normally around the age of 50. In 1% of women, however, it occurs before the age of 40, a condition known as premature ovarian failure (POF) and can be devastating for women who have yet to have a family. Little is known about how reproductive lifespan is established during fetal life, but a family of growth factors (BMPs) has been found which seem to play a part in regulating the number and maturation of eggs during fetal life. This project aims to clarify the role of BMPs in the fetal ovary and indicate how disruption of the interactions between developing eggs and fetal ovary could result in POF. The results may also help in the development of new treatments for POF, including improving the efficiency of egg production from stem cells.

£146,832 over three years to Dr V. Anne Smith (School of Biology, St Andrews University) with colleagues Dr S. Langdon & Dr Dana Faratian* (Institute of Molecular Medicine & Genetics, Edinburgh University), to take a systems biology approach to the development of predictive patient selection for ovarian cancer therapy. [*No longer involved with this research.]
Ovarian cancer has a poor prognosis: 65% of women die within 5 years, in spite of often responding well to intial treatment. Unlike breast cancer, there are no biological markers to indicate who should get what therapy. This project will involve creating datasets from treatment-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancers and using a powerful statistical technique for data analysis. This systems biology technique allows the visualisation of how a range of variables, including biological measurements and response to therapy, relate to each other in pathways. These biomarker pathways should enable improved decision-making with respect to treatment suitability.

The Mrs Jean V. Baxter Medical Research Fellowship 2005-07 was awarded to Dr John David Terrace (Clinical & Surgical Sciences, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary) for his project entitled "Characterisation of human liver stem cells during foetal development".

£79,807 over two years to Drs Robert Nibbs (Immunology), Dilys Freeman (Maternal & Reproductive Medicine), Professors Gerard Graham (Immunology) & Ian Greer (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow University) for an investigation of the role of the chemokine receptor D6 in placental dysfunction.
Certain problems during pregnancy, such as the life-threatening pre-eclampsia, are caused by inflammation which damages the placenta. This study aims to investigate the potential for finding a biochemical means of controlling pre-eclampsia and other forms of placental dysfunction.

The Mrs Robina Menzies Medical Research Scholarship 2002-03 was awarded to Dr Kirstyn Brogan (Obstetrics, Queen Mother's Hospital, Glasgow) to investigate the role of sonembryology and maternal serum biochemistry in assessing the first trimester fetus at risk from chromosomal abnormalities.

£50,625 for a one-year study to Dr Brain R. Walker, Professor Stephen G. Hillier, Dr Ruth Andrew & Dr Joo Thong (Medical Sciences, Edinburgh University) to try to identify the missing link between insulin resistance, obesity and anovulation in the tissue-specific diruption of cortisol metabolism in polycystic ovary syndrome.

£18,587 for a one-year project to Drs Andrew J. Thomson, Jane E. Norman and Professor Ian A. Greer (Obstetrics & Gynaecology) and Miss Marshia Crawford (Molecular & Cellular Biology, Glasgow University) to study the role of leucocytes in term and pre-term labour.

£63,819 over 18 months to Drs Naveed Sattar (Biochemistry, Glasgow Royal Infirmary), Jane Ramsay & Alan Mathers (Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital), William Ferrell (Medicine, Glasgow Royal Infirmary) and Professor Ian A. Greer (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow University) for direct assessemnt of microvascular function in pre-eclampsia using laser Doppler imaging.

The Nasmyth Travelling Research Scholarship 1998-2000 was awarded to Dr David C. Howe (Centre for Reproductive Biology, Edinburgh University) to visit the Laboratory for Pregnancy & Newborn Research at Cornell University and the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. His research will be into the effects of high levels of hormones circulating in the plasma on the growing foetus and on the part they play in controlling the onset of labour.

£9,935 to Dr Jane Norman and Professor Ian Greer (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Dr Isobel Walker (Haematology, Glasgow Royal Infirmary) and Dr Alan Cameron (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Queen Mother's Hospital, Glasgow) for a one-year study of the possible association of Factor V Leiden with recurrent miscarriage.

£34,396 to Drs Andrew J.R. Porter & Charles Cunningham (Molecular & Cell Biology, Aberdeen University) and Dr Grant Cumming (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aberdeen University) for a one-year project aimed at the isolation of a novel repertoire of auto-antigens associated with recurrent miscarriage.

£69,952 to Dr Jane Norman, Professor Ian Greer, Dr John A. Harper & Dr Charles B. Lunan (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow Royal Infirmary) for a two-year study of the role of nitric oxide in human cervical ripening.

£78,82 to Dr Helen Lyall (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow Royal Infirmary), Professor Iain T. Cameron (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Queen Mother's Hospital Glasgow), Dr John R. Petrie & Professor John M. Connell (Medicine & Therapeutics, Western Infirmary Glasgow) and Dr Gwynn W. Gould (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Glasgow University) for a two-year study of insulin as a vascular hormone in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

£58,482 to Drs Simon C. Riley and David C. Howe and Professor Andrew A. Calder (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Edinburgh University) for a study of the role of matrix metalloproteinases in fetal membranes, decidua and placenta in the initiation of preterm labour.

£3,702 as a supplement to Dr David W. Rae (Cruden Medical Research Scholar 1995-96; Obstetrics & Gynaeology, Aberdeen) for his investigation of the mechanisms controlling dilatation of the human pregnant cervix using biochemical, biomechanical and magnetic resonance imaging techniques.

£12,363 as a supplement to Drs Michael W.H. Coughtrie (Biochemical Medicine) and John A. Mills (Reproductive Medicine Unit, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee) for their investigation of the regulation by sulphation of steroid hormone activity in the human female reproductive tract and its relationship to infertility and early pregnancy loss.

Cruden Medical Research Scholarship 1995-96 was awarded to Dr David William Rae (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aberdeen University) to carry out biochemical, biomechanical and magnetic resonance imaging studies of the human pregnant cervix with a view to improving understanding of the mechanisms controlling dilatation of the cervix.

£62,170 over two years to Professor Iain T. Cameron & Dr Fiona Lyall (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Glasgow University) & Dr Anthony P. Davenport (Cambridge University) for an investigation of endothelin receptor subtypes in human endometrium and their role in the pathophysiology of menorrhagia.

£88,668 to Dr Michael W.H.Coughtrie (Biochemical Medicine), Drs David H. Edgar & John A. Mills (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee) for a three-year investigation of the regulation of steroid hormone activity in the human female reproductive tract and its relationship to infertility and early pregnancy loss.