Progress on Theme 2

Promoting Gynecologic, Andrologic, and Reproductive Health

Highlighted Programs and Activities

  • NEW: Reproductive health for adolescents and adults with disabilities
    While awareness of health disparities related to race and ethnicity, sex, and gender has increased, awareness of health disparities among persons with disabilities has lagged, and reproductive health care among people with disabilities is particularly problematic. A new NICHD initiative will support research to: 1) reduce barriers to appropriate reproductive (gynecologic and urologic) care experienced by people with disabilities (including access to care providers and appropriate counseling and screening during visits); and/or 2) increase effective use of existing medications and devices for contraception and infectious disease prevention by people with disabilities. Learn more: RFA-HD-23-005.
  • NEW: NICHD Pelvic Floor Disorders Network (PFDN)
    PFDN performs rigorous clinical studies of new and standard treatments for pelvic organ prolapse, urinary urgency/frequency, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence. NICHD recently issued a Request for Applications (RFA) to renew this important program. Learn more: RFA-HD-22-021, RFA-HD-22-022.
  • NEW: Small business program for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPT)
    NICHD is supporting the development of new and innovative long-acting MPTs for HIV infection and pregnancy (hormonal and non-hormonal methods) in adolescent and young women. Small business applications for MPT development may involve pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, safety and drug-drug interactions studies. NICHD also encourages biobehavioral and behavioral/social studies to identify MPT end-user preferences factors, such as look, feel, effectiveness, safety, and duration of action, and other behavioral/social factors that could promote increased MPT use in adolescent and young women. Learn more: PAR-21-297, PAR-21-298.
  • Intramural research: Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Program
    This program within the NICHD Division of Intramural Research integrates regional clinical care with a post-graduate training program. Trainees can study gynecologic disorders that begin before puberty to understand both childhood and adult gynecologic disease and fertility.

Selected Recent Advances

  • NEW: Immune-mediated conditions and endometriosis among adolescents and adult women (PMID: 33583078)
    Previously, researchers have reported that women with immune dysfunction conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematous or rheumatoid arthritis, may also be more likely to have endometriosis. However, because these studies have typically included only adult women, it is unclear whether the association is also true among a younger population. In a study of more than 1,000 younger women, scientists found that participants with any autoimmune and/or inflammatory conditions had increased risk for co-occurring endometriosis. The same was true for participants with allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia, or previous mononucleosis. Endocrine disorders, such as diabetes, were not associated with endometriosis.
  • NEW: Discovery of gene involved in male infertility (PMID: 34347949)
    Males with the condition known as non-obstructive azoospermia do not produce any sperm, despite not having any obstruction in the ducts through which sperm are released. Scientists found that the gene PNLDC1 codes for an enzyme that processes a class of non-coding ribonucleic acids believed to be involved in various functions that occur during spermatogenesis—the process by which cells in the testes produce sperm cells. The findings may provide insight into how sperm is produced and may one day lead to information helpful for the diagnosis and treatment of non-obstructive azoospermia. Similarly, greater understanding of the gene’s function may contribute to the development of new methods of male contraception.
  • Drug-containing nanoparticles reduce size of fibroid tumors in mice (PMID: 32632769)
    Researchers developed a prototype technique for shrinking uterine fibroids—sometimes painful, noncancerous tumors that form in and on the uterus. Researchers will now work to determine if the method is safe and effective for treating fibroids in people.
  • Zinc and folic acid supplementation do not improve male fertility (PMID: 31910279)
    Dietary supplements containing zinc and folic acid—marketed as a treatment for male infertility—did not improve pregnancy rates, sperm counts, or sperm function.
  • Satisfaction is high in preliminary study of male contraceptive pill (PMID: 32298717)
    Researchers testing a prototype “male pill” contraceptive method found that, in a preliminary study, 80% of participants were satisfied with the proposed method, which included taking up to four pills each day within 30 minutes of consuming a high-fat meal. More than one-half reported that they would use the method as their primary contraceptive if it were available. The findings indicate that a daily male contraceptive pill could be a satisfactory alternative to the female contraceptive pill for preventing pregnancy.
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