Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

Reproductive Biology

Further Information

Contact a supervisor for detailed information on student research projects

Assoc/Prof Kethy Sanders
Assoc/Prof Kathy Sanders

Jeremy Smith
Dr Jeremy Smith

Asst/Prof Caitlin Wyrwoll
Asst/Prof Caitlin Wyrwoll

 

The School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology offers a diverse range of student research topics.

Reproductive Biology

Topics:
  • Lifestyle and psychosocial factors influencing human fecundity and fertility (database and survey studies)
  • The impact and interaction of age, nutrition, and stress on male and female reproductive processes (database, survey and lab based projects possible).  
  • Issues surrounding the use of donated gametes and embryos in assisted reproductive technology (survey based and qualitative type projects possible). 

For students interested in assisted reproductive technology, opportunities exist for collaborative projects in the above areas with Dr Peter Burton at Concept Fertility Centre.

Students are encouraged to contact Kathy Sanders to discuss any other topics on Reproductive Biology they may wish to pursue.

Project is suitable for
Honours, Masters, PhD
Supervisor
Assoc/Prof Kathy Sanders
Essential qualifications

For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major, from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD: An appropriate Honours degree or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

 

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Optimising early life environment for long term health outcomes

Project outline

Research interests in my lab focus on the importance of the early life environment for placental and fetal development and consequent adult health outcomes of the offspring. Of particular interest is the role that stress hormones (glucocorticoids), maternal under-nutrition and maternal vitamin D deficiency have in influencing placental and fetal development.

Project topics can include:

  • Impact of early life environment on placental and fetal organ vascularity
  • The significance of placental blood flow for fetal heart development
  • Ramifications of vitamin D deficiency on neurodevelopment.

Feel free to contact Caitlin Wyrwoll to discuss any other Reproductive Biology topics they may wish to pursue.  

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Chief supervisor
Asst/Prof Caitlin Wyrwoll
 
Essential qualifications
For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major, from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD: An appropriate Honours degree or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Desirable skills/experience

Willingness to work with animal models

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The role of kisspeptin in energy expenditure in the mouse

Project outline

Recent data from our laboratory demonstrate no effect of central kisspeptin treatment on accumulative food intake. Despite this, neuroanatomical links have been established between kisspeptin cells and appetite regulating neurons expressing neuropeptide Y (NPY) and Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). Moreover, kisspeptin results in the activation of NPY cells in the hypothalamus. Electrophysiological data also suggests kisspeptin regulates the activity of NPY, and also POMC neurons. Taken together, these data strongly suggest kisspeptin has effects on energy expenditure. 

Experiments will be conducted to measure the effect of kisspeptin and the absence of kisspeptin signalling in mice on energy Expenditure.GPR54 (Kiss1r) knock-out mice or their wild-type littermates will be challenged with a high fat diet for 12 weeks. Mice will then be tested on indices of energy balance including:                   

  • Measurement of whole body energy metabolism (using metabolic cages for indirect calorimetry)
  •  Assessment of whole body glucose metabolism (using intraperitoneal glucose and insulin tolerance tests)
  • Assessment of body composition (Using dual energy X-ray absorptiomentry DEXA)
  • Assessment of neuropeptide systems involved in energy metabolism (using in situ hybridisation).  

Results from these experiments will shed light on the known link between the reproductive system and metabolism and will, potentially, offer novel therapeutic alternatives for the treatment of obesity and related metabolic disorders.

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Supervisor
Jeremy Smith
Essential qualifications

None

Desirable skills/experience
A background in molecular biology is desirable but not essential .

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The role of kisspeptin in implantation and placenation

Project outline

Kisspeptin, the neuropeptide product of the Kiss1 gene, is synthesized by neurons within the hypothalamus and is critical for the release of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and fertility. In humans, kisspeptin secretion into the peripheral circulation increases dramatically (approximately ten-thousand-fold) during pregnancy and declines precipitously at term, indicating a placental origin. The placenta is known to express KISS1 and kisspeptin receptor (KISS1R) mRNA and it appears to be localized to the trophoblast compartment. We aim to determine the expression of Kiss1 mRNA in the mouse placenta and examine the effect of reduced kisspeptin signaling (using a kisspeptin receptor knock-out mouse) on feto-placental growth.

Experiments will be conducted to measure feto-placental growth in an Kiss1r KO model.

Kiss1rKO mice or their wild-type littermates will be examined at day 14 and 18 of pregnancy.

We will examine:                   

  • Fetal weight
  • Placental weight and morphology
  • Assessment of key placental genes (using RT-PCR)
  •  effect of kisspeptin and the absence of kisspeptin signalling in mice on placental histology

Results from these experiments will shed light on the function of kisspeptin in the placenta and will, potentially, offer novel therapeutic alternatives for the treatment of placental insufficiency and/or pre-eclampsia.

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Supervisors
Jeremy Smith and Caitlin Wyrwoll
Essential qualifications

None

Desirable skills/experience
A background in molecular biology is desirable but not essential .

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