The Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research (SCCPIR), previously named the Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproductive Research (SCCPRR), is a national network of research-based centers that promotes multidisciplinary interactions between basic and clinical scientists interested in establishing high quality translational research programs in the reproductive sciences. The centers also serve as national resources for the training and career development of young scientists electing to pursue careers conducting research in high priority areas of reproduction and infertility. Such a program forms a national network of Centers that facilitates and accelerates bidirectional knowledge transfer between the laboratory and clinic, with the ultimate goal of improving human reproductive health through enhanced communication, innovation and research excellence.
The first SCCPRR request for applications was issued in 1996, and the first four awards were issued in 1998. The program now includes 14 sites around the country, and it is supported by the NICHD Fertility and Infertility (FI) Branch (formerly the Reproductive Sciences (RS) Branch) through a cooperative agreement in which Center investigators are expected to work with NICHD staff in facilitating research collaborations and interactions within and among centers, private foundations, and industry. A steering committee, comprising each site’s principal investigator and the FI Branch project scientist, coordinates the program’s research.
Each center supports one- to two-year pilot projects that may be used to support new investigators, established investigators, or collaborative projects involving investigators from different SCCPIR centers. Funds are also available to provide translational research training experiences for trainees from other centers and for scholars supported under institutional K12 awards. An Outreach/Education Core supports activities related to community outreach and education.
The research activities that comprise the SCCPIR center grants must be consistent with the broad research mission of the FI Branch; these include (but are not limited to) those described below:
- Reproductive Developmental Biology: origins and differentiation of germ cells; the endocrine, paracrine and physiologic mechanisms involved in gametogenesis, including germ cell-somatic cell interactions, germ cell proliferation and apoptosis, blood-testis barrier formation, and germ cell transplantation; fertilization, including sperm motility and capacitation, zona pellucida binding, and mechanisms to block polyspermy; pre-implantation embryonic development, including zygotic gene activation, mechanisms regulating embryonic stem cell self-renewal and differentiation, and maintenance of stem cell pluripotency; use of genetically modified stem cells to treat animal models of reproductive disorders impacting fertility
- Reproductive Tract Biology and Physiology: folliculogenesis, including studies addressing intraovarian control of follicle selection and atresia by growth factors, cytokines, and their respective binding proteins and receptor antagonists; luteogenesis and luteolysis, including intraovarian mechanisms that control luteal life span; implantation, including cell-to-cell interactions and embryo-uterine communication; the role of angiogenesis in ovarian and endometrial function; correlation of segmental gene expression with structure and function of the oviduct and epididymis
- Reproductive Endocrinology and Neuroendocrinology: fundamental mechanisms of hormone synthesis, secretion, regulation and action in the context of reproduction; developmental control of GnRH neuronal migration and targeting; intraneuronal mechanisms and glia-neuron interactions controlling pulsatile GnRH secretion; intrapituitary mechanisms governing gonadotropin secretion; identification of elements and factors controlling gene transcription including ensembles of co-activators and co-repressors, and identification of signaling molecules and pathways mediating hormone action; interaction of the immune and neuroendocrine systems in controlling fertility; mechanisms by which nutritional modification alters the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal endocrine axis
- Reproductive Genetics and Epigenetics: genetics of sex determination including clarification of the functional interactions between the known sex determination genes; genes, pathways, and epigenetic mechanisms that are important in reproduction, including those involved in imprinting of genes, differential expression of maternally vs. paternally inherited alleles, and DNA methylation during gametogenesis and embryogenesis; and elucidation of the genes, genetic, and epigenetic mechanisms responsible for normal and skewed X chromosome inactivation
- Reproductive Medicine: etiology, pathophysiology, prevention and treatment of male or female infertility, with particular emphasis on defining those conditions that are either genetically based or may have a significant epigenetic component; relation of endometriosis and uterine leiomyomas to infertility, diagnosis, management and treatment of other benign gynecologic diseases; research leading to improved outcomes across the spectrum of assisted reproductive technologies, as well as development of new approaches for assisted reproduction; use of genomics and proteomics to develop novel diagnostics for reproductive diseases and disorders particularly in adolescents; role of parental health on gamete quality and function
The SCCPIR established several research focus groups to promote interactions among investigators from different centers on specific topics. Focus group meetings provide an arena for investigators to present their unpublished research findings and to develop pilot collaborative projects. Current focus groups are interested in the following areas:
- Endometrial Function and Dysfunction
- Germ Cells, Gonads, and Health and Disease
- Neuroendocrine/pituitary Function
The NICHD, through the SCCPIR program, also provides multi-year funding to several research resources including the Ovary Bank (UCSD), the Endometrial Tissue and DNA Bank (UCSF), and the Ligand Assay and Analysis Core (UVa). The SCCPIR program also supports the following databases:
- The Ovarian Kaleidoscope Database contains information regarding the biological function, expression pattern, and regulation of genes expressed in the ovary. It also provides information on gene sequences, chromosomal localization, human and murine mutation phenotypes, and biomedical publication links.
- The Endometrium Database contains information on genes associated with human, mouse, pig, sheep, goat, cow, and horse uterus that have been taken from published microarray data. The resource includes links to other public resources and tools to compare data for genes in common between different arrays.
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine
- Baylor College of Medicine
- Harvard University
- Michigan State University
- Northwestern University
- Stanford University
- University of California, San Diego
- University of California, San Francisco
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Virginia
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Yale University