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2002: 8th issue - **2nd
Awarded $7 Million NIH Grant
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine
has won a $7 million grant from the National Institute
of Child Health and Human Development, designating it
a Specialized Center for Research in the Reproductive
Sciences -- the only one in the Chicago area.
For Research in Reproduction
by Sel YACKLEY
The highly competitive award, spanning a five-year term,
will support an ambitious program of innovative basic
and clinical research aimed at understanding
the mechanisms of fertility and infertility.
Only 14 such centers are currently funded nationwide.
According to NICHD, the agency's purpose in supporting
these centers is to "stimulate the reproductive sciences
research community to organize and maintain research-based
centers of outstanding quality."
The centers, "serving as national research
resources, form a cooperative network with NICHD that
fosters communication, innovation and high-quality reproductive
research." NICHD requires that the studies it supports
have clinical relevance.
"Surveys show that about 2.3 million couples
in the United States are infertile. Moreover, about 4.9
million women in the country have an impaired ability
to have children. The human and economic toll is substantial,"
said Asgi Fazleabas, director of the new center and professor
of physiology in the UIC department of obstetrics and
"In light of such problems, we have a
strong commitment to seeing that research in the laboratory
finds applications in the clinical setting," he added.
The four principal investigators funded under
the NICHD grant are, in addition to Fazleabas, Serdar
Bulun, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology
at UIC; Geula Gibori, professor of physiology and biophysics
at UIC; and Romana Nowak, associate professor of animal
science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Bulun is studying a compound that inhibits
the production of aromatase, an enzyme involved in manufacturing
estrogen. In a clinical trial, Bulun is testing whether
the aromatase inhibitor can eliminate or at least delay
the recurrence of endometriosis, an enigmatic disease
in which the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus
lodges elsewhere in the pelvic cavity.
The disease, which affects an estimated 5 million American
women, causes internal bleeding, inflammation and scar
tissue. Symptoms include chronic pelvic pain and infertility.
Bulun is also investigating the mechanisms
by which endometrial tissue becomes resistant to progesterone,
a factor in maintaining the highestrogen level
within endometrial tissue that is necessary for its survival
Fazleabas is investigating the role of hormones
and regulatory genes in endometriosis. He is testing,
in animals, a two-stage model whereby ovarian hormones
initially allow the disease to develop and, subsequently,
hormones produced in the endometrial tissue itself can
take over to perpetuate the disease.
"Understanding the fundamental processes
by which endometriosis becomes established and develops
will help us find and test treatment possibilites,"
Gibori focuses her research on locally produced
hormones and certain small molecules of the immune system
involved in developing and maintaining the decidua, a
specialized uterine tissue that forms during pregnancy
in primates and rodents. The tissue ensures that the uterus
remains "immunoprivileged" -- free from the
body's normal immunological reaction to reject foreign
tissue, in this case, the fetus.
Nowak is studying the role of a special class
of enzymes called metalloproteinases. These enzymes are
critical for the developing embryo to implant in the uterine
wall during normal pregnancy. They also play a central
role in pathologies, allowing cancer cells to invade healthy
tissue and permitting sloughed-off endometrial tissue
to invade the peritoneum as endometriosis develops.
In addition to UIC, the other research centers
in reproductive science currently funded by NICHD are
Baylor College of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University,
Massachusetts General Hospital, the Oregon Regional Primate
Center, Stanford University, the University of California
at San Diego, the University of Kansas, the University
of Maryland, the University of North Carolina, the University
of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, the University
of Washington and Vanderbilt University.
to Sel Erder Yackley
issue dedicated to such distinguished poet & composer as
HIKMET & Ilhan
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