The reproductive health of animals and humans is inseparably linked to the health of future generations. Diseases or impaired reproductive function in the adult organism can take root much earlier or become “programmed” within the embryo during development with consequences on the fitness of a herd or human population as well as increasing health care costs.
The mission of the One Reproductive Health Group is:
- to create a greater understanding of the origins and control of reproductive health.
- to build a unique team of scientists with innovative approaches that will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of animals, humans and our environment.
To achieve its mission, the One Reproductive Health Group encourages the involvement of researchers, clinicians and their students and staff from a wide number of disciplines who are interested in reproductive processes, developmental biology, and reproductive health.
The collaborative spirit at the University of Saskatchewan has already resulted in national and international recognitions among our members and leadership in fields of:
- developmental biology
- reproductive physiology
- endocrine disruption
- obstetrics and gynecology
The interdisciplinary approach of this group provides an excellent training ground for the next generation of highly qualified individuals who are urgently required to fill present and future needs in industry as well as basic and translational research in toxicology, medicine, veterinary medicine and agriculture.
Our trainees will also guide the future development of informed opinion and actions on issues being raised by rapid changes in our society. Such issues include:
- environmental toxicants and their impact on the reproductive system.
- the challenges of reproductive aging and health care.
- the increasing reliance on reproductive technologies to treat human and animal infertility.
The group involved with reproductive biology at the University of Saskatchewan has been active for more than 35 years through joint research and teaching, seminars, the Reproductive Biology Research Unit (RBRU), the Growth and Reproductive Immunology Program, the Canada West Society for Reproductive Biology, and more recently, the Reproductive Science and Medicine Program.
Members of the One Reproductive Health Group have been pioneers of several reproductive technologies:
- in vivo production and transfer of embryos
- in vitro production of embryos and the use of in vitro technique to evaluate sperm function
- elective induction of parturition
- establishment of strict morphological criteria for assessment of spermatozoa
- cryopreservation of semen, oocytes and embryos
- detailed analysis of placental function
- assessment of oocyte competence
- comparative characterization of ovarian dynamics
- ovarian synchronization
- computer-assisted imaging of reproductive events
Many of these techniques are now in widespread clinical and experimental use throughout the world.
Comparative Reproductive Biology
Members within the group have had a long-standing interest in comparative reproductive biology, particularly in wild species and in humans. In the 1980s, Drs. Jerry Haigh and Gordon Glover characterized reproductive function in male and female wapiti respectively, and Dr. Haigh cryopreserved wapiti semen for export to New Zealand.
Dr. Peter Flood had a long-term study of behaviour and reproductive function in muskoxen captured from the Arctic. Drs. Gregg Adams and Murray Woodbury (Large Animal Clinical Sciences) established the Native Hoofstock Centre in 2006 – a unique facility designed for studies in white-tailed deer, wapiti and bison.
Most recently, the centre has been the focal point of the Wood Bison Recovery Project for research and development of assisted reproductive techniques for the salvage of wood bison in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Reproductive Function in Humans
Other examples include the establishment of a bovine model for the study of transition to reproductive senescence (menopause) in women by Dr. Jaswant Singh, and collaborative efforts between Drs. Pierson, Mapletoft and Barth on the use of a bovine IVF model to study male factor infertility in humans.
More recent examples include the studies of Drs. Ali Honaramooz and Daniel MacPhee. Dr. MacPhee’s research has demonstrated the importance of signalling networks on human placental development. Recent findings on small stress proteins in uterine myometrium have inspired investigation of these molecules in the human myometrium by other laboratories and a proposal that small stress proteins should now be considered viable targets for future tocolytic design in the myometrium during pregnancy.
Dr. Ali Honaramooz and colleagues were first to work on germ cell (spermatogonial) transplantation in farm animals, which can be used as an alternative approach for the generation of transgenic farm animals. Dr. Honaramooz and colleagues have also established the technique for testis tissue xenografting, allowing for the first time to produce sperm from different donor species (e.g., newborn domestic and wild animals) in a recipient mouse. Testis tissue xenografting has opened a new avenue of research in reproductive biology as a novel tool for the study and manipulation of spermatogenesis in different species including conservation of valuable immature individuals (e.g., endangered species and prized farm animals).
The core members of the One Reproductive Health Group are well recognized in their respective areas. All members of the group have received national and international honours for their work. Three members of the group have received the University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Researcher Award.
We measure our success by:
- publication of scientific manuscripts, books and book chapters, scientific abstracts
- constant invitations to present the results of our research nationally and internationally
- copyrights and patents
- the training of graduate students and clinical residents
Clear evidence of international impact of the work has been demonstrated by studies challenging the traditional view of ovarian function during the human menstrual cycle and developmental work in bringing the new hormonal contraceptive patch to market in the United States, Europe and Canada.
Our faculty have been actively involved in the training of the next generation of scientists; more than 100 graduate students have received their post-graduate education under our supervision. Each of the faculty is also well established in the undergraduate or professional college teaching programs of the University of Saskatchewan.