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Basic Science Research

All basic science labs and research programs in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology are organized within the Division of Reproductive Science & Medicine.

 

Our Labs

 Bulun Lab

Areas of focus: Steroid biochemistry; estrogen biosynthesis; disease progenitor cells and epigenetic defects in endometriosis, leiomyomata and breast cancer; progesterone receptors in endometriosis and leiomyomas; use of aromatase inhibitors in the treatment of endometriosis and leiomyomata

Go to the Bulun Lab page

 Chakravarti Lab

Areas of focus: Mechanisms of steroid hormone and vitamin signaling with special emphasis on the role of the nuclear hormone receptor co-regulatory proteins in gene transcription; identifying and characterizing the role of chromatin signal transducer proteins including the recently identified INHAT proteins in gene regulation

Go to the Chakravarti Lab page

 Duncan Lab

Areas of focus:  The female reproductive system is the first to age in the human body, and this aging has dramatic consequences on fertility and overall health. We are investigating the overarching hypothesis that deterioration of oocyte-intrinsic cellular pathways together with alterations in the ovarian environment underlie the age-associated decline in female gamete quantity and quality. 

Go to the Duncan Lab Website

 Kim Lab

Areas of focus: Elucidating mechanisms of hormone action in reproductive tissues and its diseases in a context dependent manner; role of hyperactivated AKT pathway in endometrial cancer and uterine fibroids, and how this signaling pathway influences hormone receptor action, specifically, progesterone receptor (PR)

Visit the Kim Lab Website

 Matei Lab

Areas of focus: Epigenetic defects and tumor progenitor cells in ovarian cancer

Go to the Matei Lab page

 Wan Lab

Areas of focus: Defining the molecular mechanisms of breast tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis, and identifying novel targets for therapeutic development. The laboratory seeks to address how defects in the ubiquitin-proteasome system and other posttranslational modifiers such as protein methyltransferase and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase would result in genomic instability, abnormal cell cycle, and aberrant signaling that predispose otherwise normal cells to become cancerous tumor cells or promote cancer metastasis.

Visit the Wan Lab Website

Our Programs

Learn more about the various programs (including those funded by the National Institutes of Health) within the Division of Reproductive Science & Medicine.

 NICHD Fetal Growth Study

The NICHD Fetal Growth Study is a multicenter observational study supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study is designed to establish a reliable standard for fetal growth in the U.S. population using longitudinally collected two- and three-dimensional fetal anthropometric measurements. The study began recruiting women with singleton pregnancies in 2009 and was later expanded to include women with twin pregnancies (NICHD Fetal Growth Study-Twin Gestations). The NICHD Fetal Growth Study has completed recruitment for both the singleton and twin portions of the study and will have important implications for clinical practice.

 The Nullip/nuMOM2b

Northwestern University is one of eight sites nationally conducting an NIH-funded study looking at specific outcomes from the pregnancy of nulliparous (first-time mothers) women under the direction of Grobman. With about 40 percent of women in the United States being first-time mothers, historical data predicting poor outcome in pregnancy for patients is lacking. The nuMOM2b study aims to enroll 10,000 women across the country to identify why some women experience complications and others do not. Scientists will collect blood, urine and vaginal specimens, second and third trimester ultrasound measurements and placental, umbilical cord and cord blood samples along with subject interviews.

 Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network

Northwestern University is a participating site and member of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development's Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network under the direction of Grobman. The mission of research conducted by the MFMU Network is to reduce the incidence of prematurity and/or the sequelae of premature birth. Through completion of randomized clinical trials (RCTs or interventional studies) and observational studies, current obstetric care practices are modified and/or new obstetric care trends are initiated based on evidence generated by the research studies, favorably impacting maternal and neonatal outcomes. Since 2001, Northwestern has proudly collaborated with the MFMU Network on such studies as weekly progesterone injections for women with a history of preterm delivery and Beneficial Effects of Antenatal Magnesium Sulfate (BEAM), both of which are now standard of care for pregnant women with indications for their respective uses. Current studies include screening pregnant women for CMV to identify women with an infection in the current pregnancy, ST segment analysis of the FHR as an adjunct to electronic fetal monitoring, observational study of HCV in pregnant women and betamethasone use for women who are highly likely to deliver prematurely between 34 and 36 completed weeks.

 March of Dimes

In June of 2015, the March of Dimes joined with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and other universities to launch the fifth Prematurity Research Center aimed exclusively at finding the unknown causes of premature birth. This demonstrates the commitment and enthusiasm of accomplished directors, investigators and faculty as they come together in this transdisciplinary and cross-institutional effort to solve the mysteries of premature birth. This team collaborates with the other centers as they pursue the challenging questions of what causes premature birth and specifically address five interrelated transdisciplinary research themes around gene regulation.

 MOMFIT: Maternal-Offspring Metabolics: Family Intervention Trial

The prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in the U.S. over the past two decades with rapidly rising and premature adverse health consequences. Women of reproductive age, especially minorities and those of low socioeconomic status, are at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes due to excessive gestational weight gain (GWG), and this further contributes to alarming rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. Preventing excessive GWG could reduce pregnancy complications and improve long-term health of women and their offspring. Weight control studies in pregnancy are emerging but most studies have emulated traditional weight control programs through diet counseling and/or increased activity with limited evidence of sustained adherence. Novel approaches are needed to limit weight gain to Institute of Medicine goals and to help new mothers adhere to recommended diet, physical activity and lifestyle behaviors they can model for their families.

The proposed research will develop and test a new approach to primary and secondary prevention of obesity through a behaviorally adapted, nutrient-dense, energy-balanced lifestyle that can be implemented clinically, assessed objectively and sustained long term through technologically-advanced self-monitoring methods. This randomized, controlled clinical trial compares with standard care, the GWG of overweight and obese pregnant women who participate in lifestyle intervention with individualized, motivational coaching and group sessionsto develop self-monitoring of recommended diet and physical activity behavior long term. Anthropometric, metabolic, diet, activity and lifestyle outcomes will be assessed prenatally and for at least 12 months post delivery.

The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology provides care for over 12,000 ethnically diverse obstetric patients a year, many of whom participate in clinical trials, facilitated by a highly functional obstetric research infrastructure. Our multidisciplinary team, experienced in obstetrics and prevention research, propose innovative technology and enhanced self-monitoring skills to document whether new mothers can be better prepared to develop and model diet and energy-balanced lifestyle behaviors for their families and themselves and reduce and prevent obesity long term.

The proposed study will advance understanding of the effectiveness of behavioral interventions aimed at controlling GWG in a large population of ethnically diverse overweight/ and obese women. Whether changes in diet and physical activity can effectively and safely be implemented during pregnancy and sustained postpartum will be explored, as well as impact on the adiposity of the offspring.

 Ovarian Cancer Early Detection & Prevention Program

The Northwestern Ovarian Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Program (NOCEDPP), under the direction of Lee P. Shulman, MD, is a collaborative effort between Northwestern University and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern UniversityThis collaborative effort integrates with the clinical screening of women at high risk of ovarian cancer with the development of new serum and plasma tumor markers for the early detection of ovarian cancer.

 Uterine Leiomyoma Research Center Program

The Uterine Leiomyoma Research Center Program is the only NIH-funded fibroid research program in the world. Bulun joined together with Drs. Julie Kim, Debabrata Chakravarti, JianJun Wei, Erica Marsh and Romana Nowak (University of Illinois) in 2005 to build a comprehensive and innovative research program for basic and clinical investigation of uterine fibroids. In 2009, this group received NIH funding for these efforts, which has been used to demonstrate the roles of progesterone, antiprogestins, the AKT pathway and nuclear receptors in uterine fibroid biology. Recently, this group focused on the roles of tissue stem cells in uterine fibroid regeneration and growth. The group has also perfected the most clinically relevant models of uterine fibroids including engrafting human tissues and cells under the kidney capsule, primary 3D cultures of fibroid and myometrial cells and isolation of somatic stem cells via antibody-based sorting.

 The Center for Reproductive Science

(https://www.crs.northwestern.edu/)

The Center for Reproductive Science (CRS) is an interdisciplinary collaboration of medical and science scholars at the forefront of reproductive research, medicine, and technology. The CRS mission is to enhance and coordinate research in the reproductive sciences at Northwestern, to promote the application of this research toward human welfare, and to optimize the training of future researchers, educators and clinicians in the reproductive sciences. Our reproductive science community is vibrant, and we garner success from innovative collaborations and technologies.  We are at the crossroads of multiple disciplines, including medicine, physiology, chemistry, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, biomaterials engineering, religion, anthropology, law, and bioethics. The CRS offers a wide array of resources, programming, and funding opportunities in reproductive science and medicine, and we invite you to dive into our website to learn more.

 The Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative

Seeking novel, female-targeted, non-hormonal contraceptives is a key aspiration for family planning strategies but has historically been limited due to lack of investment over time, low funding to enable technology, and fragmentation of the field across disciplines. To make progress against the top line goal, concentrated, adaptable funding, new approaches and tools, and a cohesive hub-and-spoke organization with faculty and student pipelines are needed to enable the work. The Ovarian Contraceptive Discovery Initiative expands on current research at Northwestern University related to engineering in vitro tissue systems for modeling reproductive tissue to monitor key biological processes to improve the mechanistic understanding of follicle development and ovulation. This work supports the establishment of these tools within an integrated platform for the systematic study of ovarian biology with the express purpose of discovering, screening, and validating novel contraceptives. This platform will deliver a robust and optimized series of follicle and oocyte-targeted contraceptive targets, pathways, and screening tools.