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New photo 'op' for ovaries may solve some mysteries of infertility
Date:6/19/2008

CHICAGO -- What causes a woman's eggs to deteriorate in quality with age, and can that be reversed?

How does the ovary choose an egg -- out of a stash of roughly one million -- to release for ovulation? And can the ovary be influenced to pick a "good" quality egg rather than one with chromosomal damage?

These questions are much on the mind of fertility researcher Teresa Woodruff. Woodruff, director of the Center for Reproductive Research at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, hopes to find the answers and, with them, new treatments for fertility disease and age-related infertility. Her research, funded by a new $6.5 million National Institutes of Health grant, has a novel approach.

Instead of measuring hormones and looking at genes -- the more traditional approaches to infertility research -- Woodruff and colleagues are studying the architecture and behavior of the ovaries.

"We're going to approach fertility disease from a new perspective," said Woodruff, the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School. "If we continue to look at the diseases of women's fertility traditionally, we're not going to solve the problems."

The inner daily workings of the ovary largely remain a mystery waiting to be solved.

"We don't understand how each follicle is selected to begin the process of ovulation," Woodruff said. "What caused this one to be selected when it's May and you're 19 years old while there might be one sitting right next to it quiescently for another 20 years before it is moved to the position where it can ovulate? Something controls or parcels those follicles over time so that you have enough from puberty until menopause."

There aren't many tools to help researchers examine the way ovaries function. Enter Frank Miller, M.D., who is developing a new imaging device to do exactly that.

"Ovaries are small and deep and they are more ch
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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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