Grant will enable infertility research

University of Otago physiology researcher Dr Rebecca Campbell has welcomed as ”wonderful” a new Health Research Council project grant which will enable her to continue cutting-edge research involving female infertility.

Dr Campbell, a senior lecturer in physiology, has been awarded a $910,114 project grant in the HRC’s latest funding round, to continue research on the brain’s role in infertility – research ”on the frontier of this area” internationally.

HRC officials said Otago researchers had identified a ”surprising new pathway” within the brain’s network of neurons that could provide insights into the leading cause of female infertility in New Zealand and the world: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

The funding would enable her to carry out a series of studies to characterise the role of this new neuronal pathway in the regulation of fertility, she said.

The neuroendocrine control of fertility depends on a small population of brain cells known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons.

”Neuroendocrine” refers to interactions between the nervous system and the hormones of the endocrine system.

A recent study in her team’s laboratory revealed a completely unexpected brain pathway within the GnRH neuronal network that might underpin the neuroendocrine abnormalities of PCOS, Dr Campbell said.

The research would involve using the ”most advanced technical approaches in neuroscience” and better understanding this pathway could provide new insights into the treatment of this condition in the clinic.

The ”wonderful” HRC funding would be ”great” for her research group, enabling a more senior postdoctoral researcher to be added.

Nearly one in 10 New Zealand women had PCOS, and it was estimated to affect more than 100 million women worldwide.