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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

March 2016

NIEHS scientists stand out at regional reproductive biology meeting

The spring meeting included and a poster award for trainee Fei Zhao, Ph.D., and talks by Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., and trainee Kathryn McClelland, Ph.D.

Institute scientists made a strong showing Feb. 6 at the 25th annual meeting of the Triangle Consortium for Reproductive Biology (TCRB) at NIEHS. The event drew about a hundred local researchers from the institute, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and area universities, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, and Wake Forest University.

The poster session featured a number of NIEHS scientists, and Fei Zhao, Ph.D., a visiting postdoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Reproductive Developmental Biology Group, led by Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., won the award for the best trainee poster presentation. 

Yao was one of the three invited regional speakers, and Kathryn McClelland, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in Yao’s lab, was one of four trainees selected to give an oral presentation.

The annual meeting provides trainees a wealth of opportunities, from networking and discussing their research during the poster session, to learning from local experts and invited speakers. “This is a great experience for trainees, and it also provides a chance to share the work we do here at NIEHS with our peers in the area,” Yao said. “It’s rewarding to work with trainees of such high caliber.”

Immune system influences the timing of birth

Stephen Lye, Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, gave the keynote address, speaking on “Maternal Immune System and Preterm Birth: Mechanism, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics.” His laboratory studies the role of the immune system during placental development and remodeling of the adjacent uterine wall, maintenance of the uterine blood supply to support fetal growth and development, and the timely onset of labor.

Lye described how drugs might be designed to block the immune response and inhibit preterm labor, and how biomarkers may be developed to indicate risk of preterm labor.

From fruit flies to mammals

Yao discussed “New Insights on Mammalian Sex Determination and Differentiation.” He described how long distance-acting testis factors activin B and anti-Mullerian hormone contribute to testis development in mouse embryos.

Elizabeth Ables, Ph.D., from East Carolina University, spoke about how steroid hormones regulate stem cell function in the fruit fly.

The third regional speaker was L. Earl Gray Jr., Ph.D., a research biologist with the EPA Office of Research. He presented his research on the lifelong reproductive effects experienced by male rats exposed in the womb to environmental chemicals that disrupt androgen signaling.

Trainees recognized for research excellence

The research of NIEHS trainees also received recognition at the meeting. As one of four trainees selected to give an oral presentation, McClelland spoke on “Loss of COUP-TFII in Different Interstitial Cell Populations Has Varying Effects on Fetal Testicular Architecture and Development.” Also, five of the six finalists for the best trainee poster were from NIEHS (see text box).

For the third year, the Campion Fund, which promotes basic biomedical research on diseases affecting the human reproductive system, sponsored the awards. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, it is supported by the Phyllis and Mark Leppert Foundation for Fertility Research.

(Kembra Howdeshell, Ph.D., is a health scientist in the National Toxicology Program.)

Adams explaining her poster Adams, third from left, explained her research on human endometrial stromal cells to scientists during the poster session. (Photo courtesy of Kembra Howdeshell)
Nicol discusoong her poster Nicol, center, discussed her investigation of transcription factor Runx1 with attendees. Nicol, a visiting fellow in Yao’s lab, won a National Institutes of Health Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) in both 2015 and 2016. (Photo courtesy of Kembra Howdeshell)
Katie Pelch discussing her research Katie Pelch, Ph.D., left, discussed her research on the estrogenic activity of bisphenol A-related compounds with Vickie Wilson, Ph.D., head of the EPA Reproductive Toxicology Branch. Pelch is an IRTA fellow in the National Toxicology Program Office of Health Assessment and Translation, led by Kristina Thayer, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Kembra Howdeshell)
Miranda Bernhardt discussing her research Miranda Bernhardt, Ph.D., right, described her study of fertilization-induced calcium signaling in mouse eggs, to interested researchers. Bernhardt, an IRTA fellow in the NIEHS Reproductive Medicine Group, led by Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., was named the 2015 NIEHS Fellow of the Year (Photo courtesy of Kembra Howdeshell)
Xiaofeng Zheng discussing his research Xiaofeng Zheng, Ph.D., left, presented his research on the role of mRNA deadenylation in the regulation of pluripotent cell fate and embryonic development. He is a visiting fellow in the NIEHS Stem Cell Biology Group, led by Guang Hu, Ph.D., and was a 2015 FARE winner. (Photo courtesy of Kembra Howdeshell)

Six trainees named poster finalists

Nicholas Serra, a graduate student at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, was a finalist for his poster “The ‘Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin’ (mTOR) is Required for Spermatogonial Differentiation in the Mouse.”

The remaining five finalists work in the NIEHS labs of Yao and Francesco DeMayo, Ph.D., head of the Pregnancy and Female Reproduction Group. Both groups are part of the NIEHS Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory.

Nyssa Adams, Ph.D., an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow in DeMayo’s group, presented “The Role of WNK1 in the Decidualization of Human Endometrial Stromal Cells.”

Barbara Nicol, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in Yao’s lab, discussed her poster “The Transcription Factor Runx1 is a New Regulator of Ovarian Identity and Ovarian Reserve.”

Tracy Clement, Ph.D., a research fellow in Yao’s group, shared her research on “Novel Actin Related Protein Role for ACTL7B in Intracellular Membrane-Cytoskeletal Associations in Developing Spermatids is Required for Spermatid Morphogenesis and Male Fertility.”

Fei Zhao, Ph.D., a visiting fellow in Yao’s lab, earned the best poster award for his research on “Wolffian Duct Regression in the Female Embryo is the Result of COUP-TFII action, Not a Lack of Androgen Action.”

Margeaux Wetendorf, Ph.D., shared findings from her work as an IRTA fellow in DeMayo’s group, with her poster “Constitutive Progesterone Receptor B Isoform Expression Promotes Cell Survival and Proliferation in the Murine Ovary.”

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