NCTRI is a national network of centers that promote 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. The centers facilitate and accelerate bidirectional knowledge transfer between the laboratory and clinic, with the goal of improving human reproductive health through enhanced communication, innovation, and research excellence.
The first request for applications was issued in 1996, when the effort was called the Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research, and the first four awards were issued in 1998. The program, supported by NICHD's Fertility and Infertility Branch (FIB) through a P50 funding mechanism, now includes seven sites around the country. In the last competition, NCTRI’s research scope expanded to include gynecological health in addition to reproductive health.
Each center supports 1- to 2-year pilot projects that may be used to support new investigators, established investigators, or collaborative projects involving investigators from different NCTRI locations. An outreach/education core supports activities related to community outreach and education. The research activities are consistent not only with FIB’s broad research mission (one center dealing with fibroids is supported by the Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch), but also with the NICHD Strategic Plan.
Research activities at each center comprise a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical problems. Centers often have more than one area of focus, but all the research projects address one or more FIB priority topic areas. Furthermore, a program center supports at least one entirely or predominantly clinical project, and all basic science projects are linked to clinical project(s).
The centers address the following broad areas for which research at the basic/clinical interface is essential to the potential development of new leads or approaches to fertility regulation, diagnostic tools, and procedures for the detection and effective management of reproductive disorders that affect reproductive competence:
- Reproductive developmental biology: origins and maintenance of male and female gametogenesis from fertilization to adulthood
- Reproductive tract biology and physiology: the proper formation and function of the male and female reproductive tracts
- Reproductive endocrinology and neuroendocrinology: mechanisms of hormone synthesis, secretion, regulation, and action in the context of reproduction
- Reproductive medicine: etiology, pathophysiology, prevention, and management of male or female infertility (including fertility preservation)
- Fertility status as a biomarker for future health: the linkage between fertility status and overall health
Additionally, projects often use -omic methodologies, particularly multiomic approaches that combine and synthesize data from multiple -omic datasets. These -omics technologies would include, but are not limited to genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, metallomics, and microbiomics.
NCTRI includes research-focused groups that promote interactions among investigators from different centers on specific topics. Focused group meetings provide an arena for investigators to present their unpublished research findings and to develop pilot collaborative projects. Current groups are interested in endometrium, endometriosis, and implantation/placentation; and male fertility and infertility.
Through NCTRI, NICHD also has supported or presently supports several research resources, including the Human Endometrium Tissue Bank at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Transcriptional Regulation and Expression Facility (formerly the RNA Sequencing Core) at the Cornell University.
- Endometrial Tissue and DNA Bank (operated by University of California, San Francisco)
- Ligand Assay and Analysis Core (operated by the University of Virginia School of Medicine)
- Transcriptional Regulation and Expression Facility (operated by the Cornell University)
- RFA-HD-23-011: National Centers for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility (P50 Clinical Trial Optional)
- NICHD Contact: Travis Kent