The Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2018

Fifty years of research.  What a journey for the study of the ovary. (#113)

Ray Rodgers 1
  1. Robinson Institute, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

SRB was founded by members who traditionally attended the scientific meetings of the ESA. Those early days saw the development of hormone RIAs for the gonadotrophins and ovarian steroid hormones and much of the text book knowledge of the reproductive cycle was discovered by SRB members. The local development of solid-phase assays advanced our technological capacity. Humans, sheep, marsupials and rats were generally the species of choice then. SRB offered more than endocrine research relating to the ovary. Developmental biology became important. In the follicle the two-cell hypothesis of oestrogen production and the differential gonadotrophin control was discovered. This was followed up with studies of the different luteal cells and later of immune cells in the ovary. IVF researchers were at the forefront of developments and continued to attract a lot of press and ethical debates. They still do! With the advent of molecular biology the cloning of genes encoding inhibins and relaxins was largely conducted in Australia as were a number of other genes important in endocrinology.  In situ hybridisation was pioneered in Australia. The study of steroid hormones morphed into the study of steroid hormone receptors and steroidogenic enzymes once they were cloned in the 1980’s. Developmental biology continued. Phenomenal methods for manipulating the genetics of mice allowed lineage tracing of cells, tissue specific gene knockouts and over-expression and depletion of specific cells. The origins of granulosa cells went through different models resulting in a new concepts of how the ovary develops. Studies identified how the indifferent gonad makes decisions on becoming a testis or ovary. Some hypotheses in early 2000s were controversial, even until today, such as the formation of new follicles in adult ovaries and the existence of germline stem cells. PCOS was found to have metabolic consequences and even today new guidelines are being developed for the management of this condition, whose aetiology still remains a mystery. Some of the causes of premature ovarian failure have been identified but not all of them. The use of AMH for predicting ovarian reserve has focused the public’s attention to reproductive health and scientists’ attention on primordial follicles. Ovarian cancer is also increasingly studied with new hypotheses on their cellular origins. With current funding imperatives much future research is likely to be directed to translational health outcomes.