Progress on Theme 2

Promoting Gynecologic, Andrologic, and Reproductive Health

Highlighted Programs and Activities

  • NEW: National Centers for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility (NCTRI)
    By renewing and updating the NCTRI program to further emphasize the latest science, NICHD will continue to provide an arena for multidisciplinary interactions among basic and clinical scientists interested in establishing high-quality translational research programs in reproductive health. The updated effort prioritizes research centers that address the -omic bases of reproductive health and fertility (e.g., genomic, epigenomic, proteomic, metabolomic). It also emphasizes projects that go beyond correlative studies to address possible causality and contributions of genetic variants to inherited reproductive health. Learn more: RFA-HD-23-011.
  • NEW: Integrative research in gynecologic health
    Integrated studies—those that involve basic, translational, and clinical science—offer a powerful mechanism to conduct novel and complex research on a single, clinically important, understudied gynecologic disorder, or on a research question that cuts across disorders. With an end goal of improving human gynecologic health, this funding opportunity announcement will foster partnerships between experts in diverse fields and enable enhanced knowledge and resource sharing. By normalizing integrative studies, these projects can accelerate advancement in gynecologic health. Learn more: RFA-HD-23-006.
  • NEW: Website designed to help advance reproductive health research
    Researchers created the Contraceptive Infertility Target Database (CITDBase) to help scientists search for drug targets—a molecule in the body to which a drug could be directed to produce a desired effect—for contraceptive development or infertility research. The website offers reproductive health researchers a way to search for genes, proteins, and other molecules that could provide the basis for studies to develop new contraceptive methods and infertility treatments. CITDBase is a free public resource. Learn more: external link.
  • 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, especially regarding reproductive healthcare among people with disabilities. A recent 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.
  • 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 and 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: Prototype genetic test can predict women’s risk for uterine fibroids (PMID: 35226188)
    The genetic basis of fibroid tumors is poorly understood and cannot be traced to any single gene. Researchers analyzed two databases with genetic information from thousands of patients of non-Hispanic European ancestry, comparing genes for women with and without uterine fibroids. They classified patients according to symptoms, such as regularity of their menstrual cycles, pain, or benign tumors in or on other organs. The scientists found that certain combinations of variant genes were predominant in fibroids cases, suggesting that screening for these variants may be possible.
  • NEW: Weight loss before infertility treatment does not improve live birth rate in unexplained infertility (PMID: 35041662)
    Researchers compared two pre-pregnancy interventions for women with obesity in couples with unexplained infertility. Participants in the diet-and-exercise group lost an average of 6.6% of their body weight, while those in the exercise-only group did not lose a significant proportion of body weight. However, the results showed no difference in the rate of live births among women with unexplained infertility in either group. The results contradict a current recommendation that women with obesity should lose weight before trying to conceive.
  • NEW: COVID-19 vaccination does not reduce chances of conception (PMID: 35051292)
    In a study of more than 2,000 couples, researchers found that COVID-19 vaccination did not affect the chances of conception. Researchers found no differences in the chances of conception if either male or female partner had been vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated couples. However, couples had a slightly lower chance of conception if the male partner had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 within 60 days before a menstrual cycle, suggesting that COVID-19 could temporarily reduce male fertility.
  • Immune-mediated conditions increase endometriosis risk 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 increased risk for endometriosis.
  • Researchers discover gene involved in male infertility (PMID: 4347949)
    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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