Frontiers in Reproduction: Molecular and Cellular Concepts and Applications

An intensive six-week laboratory and lecture course designed for advanced graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, newly independent scientists and physicians who seek training in modern state-of-the-art methods and a broad view of current concepts in all areas of reproductive biology.

Course date:
Apr 30, 2022 - Jun 12, 2022
Application due date:
Jan 17, 2022

Director: Rafael Fissore, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Course Description

An intensive six-week laboratory and lecture course designed for advanced graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, newly independent scientists and physicians who seek training in modern state-of-the-art methods and a broad view of current concepts in all areas of reproductive biology.

The FIR course is divided into three sections of two weeks’ duration and covers the following broad themes:

Section 1 – Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonadal Axis (Stephen Hammes, Section Director)

Section 2 – Stem cells, Gametogenesis, Fertilization, and Preimplantation Embryo Development (Carmen Williams, Section Director)

Section 3 – Male and Female Reproductive Tract Development, Function and Disease (Barry Hinton, Section Director)

Each section consists of lectures from faculty and world-renowned scientists in the field of reproductive science. Discussions, informal seminars, laboratory exercises, demonstrations, and one-on-one tutorials comprise a typical day in the FIR course.

Section 1 emphasizes signal transduction and gene regulation in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and its impact on reproductive function, development, and fertility. Lectures cover physiologic to molecular actions of peptide, protein and steroid hormones and the intracellular signaling as well as the transcriptional gene regulatory mechanisms that drive reproductive biology. Section 1 laboratories teach methods key to studying hormone action and cell biology. Techniques include quantification of second messengers and transcriptional activity; cell culture and transient transfection; western blot analysis; ELISAs; quantitative RT-PCR; chromatin immunoprecipitation; immunofluorescence; tissue dissection.

Section 2 is focused on stem cells, gametogenesis, fertilization, and preimplantation embryo development. The lectures focus on germline stem cells and their differentiation into functional gametes through the processes of spermatogenesis and folliculogenesis, maturation of gametes and acquisition of fertilization and developmental competence, sperm-egg interaction, egg activation and preimplantation embryo development. Epigenetic mechanisms are examined, including discussion of imprinting and transgenerational inheritance. Additional lectures explore how the environment impacts reproduction, the genetic basis of infertility, including animal models and assisted reproductive technologies used in the clinic. Ethical issues concerning the use of technology in human reproduction are also discussed. The labs in Section 2 focus on stem cell transplantation and meiotic staging of germ cells, follicular culture and in vitro techniques related to maturation of oocytes, sperm physiology, fertilization of various animal models, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and other micromanipulation procedures. Commonly used methods in bioinformatics and their applicability are discussed and illustrated.

Section 3 focuses on the examination of the developing and adult male and female reproductive tracts under normal and pathological conditions. Lectures cover transgenic technology including microinjection, gene editing, and embryo transfer; development of the male and female reproductive tracts, mammary gland and gonads; maternal-fetal interactions including implantation, uterine decidualization, comparative placentation, placental function and immunological adaptations to pregnancy. Additional lectures cover topics of clinical relevance to the reproductive tract, such as implantation failure, endometriosis, breast cancer and functions of the oviduct. The use of non-traditional species in advancing reproductive sciences such as domestic animals and wild animals will be discussed. The labs in Section 3 focus on techniques associated with the lecture topics, including generation and characterization of transgenic embryos, the use of laser capture microdissection, in vitro models including cell and organ culture, flow cytometry, and reporter assays to evaluate function of the reproductive tract.

Spread throughout the course are discussions on professional development such as publishing, grant preparation and review, and ethics. The Frontiers in Reproduction course concludes with a two-day symposium featuring seminars by distinguished speakers and short research presentations by current and previous participants.