US $1.2m grant awarded for impact of stress on eggs and embryos

A team of researchers headed by the University of Adelaide has been awarded a US$1.27 million grant from the United States to study how lifestyle and health "stress" on eggs and embryos can impact on the later life of children.

The grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) in the US has been awarded to an Australian team comprising researchers from the University of Adelaide's Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and the University of Queensland's Department of Physiology.

The team is led by Dr Jeremy Thompson, Head of Clinical and Research Embryology at the University of Adelaide's Reproductive Medicine Unit, based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The funding is part of the NICHD's National Cooperative Program on Female Health and Egg Quality.

The program was established to try to better understand the impact of poor nutrition, extreme exercise, smoking, certain assisted reproductive technologies and other adverse health situations on reproductive processes prior to and around the time of fertilisation in females.

Of around 35 international applications, seven have been funded, including the Adelaide/Queensland team. Their five-year research project begins on September 1.

"Fundamental questions regarding the long-term health of children conceived during poor maternal health or adverse lifestyle choices, or conceived in the course of infertility treatment, remain unanswered and are logistically difficult to resolve," Dr Thompson says.

"Our team has shown, using animal models, that the 'microenvironment' surrounding the early embryo can influence subsequent fetal development, even if the change in the environment is something quite subtle and the exposure to the change occurs only in the first days following fertilisation.

"We believe that if the microenvironment surrounding the egg or early embryo varies from normal conditions, then this will induce a molecular and bio

Contact: David Ellis
Adelaide University

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