The Center for Reproductive Medicine's Visiting Scholar Lectures aim to encourage academic exploration and foster the exchange of ideas within Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Medical Center communities. Guest scholars from around the United States highlight the diversity of topics and challenges in their research endeavors, along with their leading discoveries in the reproductive medicine field.

The Dialogue Between the Maternal Endometrium and the Embryo: Potential Impact on the Onset of Adult Diseases

Dr. Carlos Simon, Professor of OB/GYN, University of Valencia, Spain (320x240)
Dr. Carlos Simón joined the CRM and Texas Children's Hospital for the Visiting Scholar Lecture series Oct. 21, 2016. 

Carlos Simón, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Valencia School of Medicine, Spain

Oct. 21, 2016, the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital presented a two-part Visiting Scholar Lecture series with internationally-recognized clinician scientist Carlos Simón, M.D., Ph.D. During his visit, Dr. Simón presented "Stem Cell Therapy of the Endometrium in Asherman’s Syndrome and Atrophic Endometrium" and "The Dialogue Between the Maternal Endometrium and the Embryo: Potential Impact on the Onset of Adult Diseases."

Dr. Simón is professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) at the University of Valencia School of Medicine in Spain, and co-founder and scientific director of Igenomix, a biotech company offering advanced services in reproductive genetics. He is also adjunct clinical professor of OB/GYN at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and adjunct professor of OB/GYN at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Simón completed his clinical residency in obstetrics and gynecology and his Ph.D. in reproductive genetics at the University of Valencia School of Medicine, and performed a postdoctoral research fellowship in reproductive immunology at Stanford University.

He has authored more than 400 publications and 100 book chapters, and is a leader in the field of reproductive endocrinology & infertility (REI), with an interest in the study of endometrial receptivity. Since 1991, his basic and clinical research has contributed to the advance of reproductive medicine, specifically in the understanding of human endometrial receptivity, embryo viability, embryonic implantation, and endometriosis. For more information on Dr. Simón's clinical and research endeavors

Blastocyst Hatching: Tracking Earliest Embryonic Differentiation

Dr. Polani Seshagiri (320x240)
Dr. Polani Seshagiri joined the CRM for a Visiting Scholar Lecture Aug. 16, 2016. 

Polani B. Seshagiri, Ph.D.
Professor of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics
Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, India

Dr. Polani Seshagiri’s group is interested in studying early mammalian development with regard to the acquisition of fertilizing potential of spermatozoa and development of embryos through peri-implantation stages, with particular reference to the phenomenon of blastocyst hatching. Additionally, they are studying cell lineage specifications by using ES-cells as model systems. These studies contribute to a better understanding of the basic biology of mammalian development and cellular differentiation—which have implications in animal embryo biotechnology, and in the management of human infertility and health.

During his talk Aug. 16, 2016, Dr. Seshagiri discussed the cellular and molecular principles associated with the earliest embryonic differentiation. During earliest events of mammalian development, the sperm must undergo capacitation-hyperactivation for it to be able to fertilize the oocyte. Post-fertilization, the zygote undergoes a series of mitotic cleavage divisions to form the first differentiated embryonic entity i.e., the blastocyst. For the blastocyst to successfully implant into the uterine endometrium, it must hatch out of its encasement viz. the zona pellucida. Blastocyst hatching and implantation are rate-limiting steps for the establishment of a viable pregnancy.

Special Visiting Scholar Q&A with Dr. Teresa Woodruff

CRM Visiting Scholar Reception with Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (320x240)
A "generation" of reproductive biologists, including Dr. Teresa Woodruff, Stephanie Pangas, Ph.D., associate professor, and Amanda Rodriguez, predoctoral fellow, Department of Pathology, during the Feb. 3 Visiting Scholar Reception. 

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.
Chief, Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology-Fertility Preservation 
Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology 
Director, Women’s Health Research Institute 
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Teresa Woodruff is an internationally recognized expert in ovarian biology and reproductive sciences. In 2006, Dr. Woodruff coined the term “oncofertility” - describing the merger of two important fields: oncology and fertility. Dr. Woodruff’s lab focuses on making breakthroughs in follicle biology, oocyte quality and translating their research into clinical care for women.

Feb. 3, 2016, Dr. Woodruff, keynote speaker of the Texas Medical Center’s 2016 Annual Presidential Career Symposium, sat down with Dolores J. Lamb, Ph.D., director, Center for Reproductive Medicine, and held a Q&A session with the audience, to discuss her latest research discoveries in women’s reproductive health, and provided advice on developing a career in the field of biomedical research. Questions ranged from advice for junior faculty, mentorship, current research efforts and overcoming barriers, to her time as President of the Endocrine Society. 

Dr. Woodruff pointed out that a key focus area in oncofertility is uncovering mitigation strategies to relieve the effects of chemotherapy. Her research efforts also extend into further analysis of the connection between oocytes and sperm and reprogramming its structure to fit within reproductive science. In terms of career development, Dr. Woodruff emphasized that it takes long-term passion, motivation, an encouraging mentor and strong strategic goals to successfully manage one's career. 

Function of Small RNAs in Reproduction and Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance

CRM Visiting Scholar Lecture with Dr. Wei Yan on Dec. 3, 2015
From Dr. Yan's CRM Visiting Scholar Lecture Dec. 3. 

Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Reproductive Medicine
Center for Molecular Medicine
University of Nevada School of Medicine

Dec. 3, 2015, the CRM welcomed Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of reproductive medicine, Center for Molecular Medicine, University of Nevada School of Medicine. Dr. Yan discussed his lab’s work on the roles of small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) within reproduction. This includes the regulation of gametogenesis, fertilization and early embryonic development. He also discussed sncRNAs role in epigenetic transgenerational inheritance.

Dr. Yan’s lab has focused on small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) and the barriers to their useful analysis because of the widespread proliferation of the data of next-generation RNA technologies. To help solve this problem, Dr. Yan’s lab has developed a computer-assisted sncRNA annotation pipeline, which uses open-source software and allows for not only proper classification of known sncRNAs, but also the discovery of novel sncRNA species. Visit website for more information on Dr. Yan's research.

The presentation's instructive first slide (seen above) emphasizes the reproductive system’s power within the body’s interacting systems. Reproduction is important because: 

  • Evolutionarily, all physiological activities are geared towards successful reproduction or sex, which is imprinted in the genome.
  • The quality of gametes determines the health of the embryo/fetus/newborn/adult.
  • The crucial period of sex determination predisposes offspring to many forms of adult onset diseases.