Frontiers in Reproduction: Molecular and Cellular Concepts and Applications

Course Information

Watch the FIR WebinarCourse Date: Not offered in 2021

2020 Schedules: Section 1; Section 2; Section 3

Course Website

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.

Financial Information: Tuition: $6,300; Room & Board: $3,311. The admissions process at the Marine Biological Laboratory is need-blind, meaning that we evaluate students on their merits alone, without weighing their financial situations. Financial assistance will be considered for those admitted students who are in need. Upon acceptance, students will be asked to complete a financial aid request form if they need assistance.

In 2019, 100% of those students in the Frontiers in Reproduction course who requested financial aid received some support. The amount of financial aid available from the MBL varies by course based on funding from grants and scholarships, but typically covers 70-100% of student need.

2019 Course Faculty & Lecturers

Aizen, Yosi, Ruppin Academic Center
Auchus, Richard, University of Michigan
Balasubramanian, Ravi, Mass General Hospital
Bartolomei, Marisa, University of Pennsylvania
Bayliss, Francoise, Dalhouise University
Blanco, Gustavo, Kansas University Medical Center
Carroll, David, Florida Institute of Technology
Clark, Amander, UCLA
Belleannée, Clémence, Laval University
Cohen, Paula, Cornell University
Coss, Djurdjica, University of California, Riverside
DeMayo, Francesco, NIH/NIEHS
Dumesic, Daniel, University of California, Los Angeles
Duncan, Francesca, Northwestern University
Ellsworth, Buffy, Southern Illinois University
Fazleabas, Asgi, Michigan State University
FitzHarris, Greg, University of Montreal
Hammes, Steve, University of Rochester
Jaffe, Laurinda, University of Connecticut Health Center
Jorgensen, Joan, University of Wisconsin
Kimmins, Sarah, McGill University
Kriegsfeld, Lance, University of California, Berkeley
Lee, Miller, University of Pittsburgh
Lomniczi, Alejandro, Oregon Health Sciences University
Matunis, Erika, Johns Hopkins University
Mayo, Kelly, Northwestern University
McIlvain, Jim, Zeiss/MBL
Mehlmann, Lisa, University of Connecticut Health Center
Moenter, Sue, University of Michigan
Norwitz, Errol, Tufts Medical Center
Oesterle, Adair, Sutter Instruments
Orwig, Kyle, Magee-Womens Research Institute
Petroff, Peggy, University of Michigan
Prins, Gayle, University of Illinois, Chicago
Ralston, Amy, Michigan State University
Reynolds, Larry, North Dakota State University
Richards, JoAnne, Baylor College of Medicine
Rinaudo, Paolo, UCSF
Roberson, Mark, Cornell University
Santi, Celia, Washington University, St. Louis
Schindler, Karen, Rutgers University
Xiao, Shou, U South Carolina
Schlegel, Peter,, Cornell Weill Medical Center
Singson, Andrew, Rutgers University
Spencer, Thomas, University of Missouri
Suarez, Susan, Cornell University
Tremblay, Jacques, Laval University
Walker, William, University of Pittsburgh
Wildt, David, Smithsonian Institution Conservation & Research Center
Wolfner, Mariana, Cornell University

Course Support

This course is supported with funds provided by:

Burroughs Wellcome Fund
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Society for the Study of Reproduction (Anita Payne Scholarship & Gates Foundation Scholarship)
The American Society for Cell Biology
Male Contraceptive Initiative (MCI)

Substantial financial aid is available to admitted applicants regardless of nationality. Scholarships are based on need and may cover the majority of course and travel costs.