Dr Lisa M Thurston has been awarded a Society of Reproduction and Fertility Return to Research Scholarship to work on the following project: Investigating the role of extracellular vesicles in gamete-oviductal cell communication in the female reproductive tract.
Lisa explains what the project will involve: "Beneficial communication between the female reproductive tract and spermatozoa is essential for the successful establishment of fertilisation. It is widely accepted that extracellular vesicles (EVs) are potent vehicles for intercellular communication in a variety of physiological systems, potentially via their transport of microRNAs (miRNAs).
Pilot data from my laboratory has demonstrated that EVs are secreted by the epithelial cells of the oviduct and that these EVs contain miRNAs known to be involved in cell cycle regulation and cell adhesion. More recently, we have obtained data indicating that spermatozoa also secrete EVs that interact with oviductal epithelial cells when in sperm-oviduct co-cultures.
Investigating the role of EV miRNAs in gamete-maternal tract communication will provide important insights into the mechanisms influencing fertilisation by natural conception and assisted reproductive technologies.
This project will also significantly contribute to an exciting collaboration with the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Sheffield, where we are developing a computational model of the pig reproductive tract. The secretion of EVs by oviductal epithelial cells and spermatozoa, and the subsequent actions of EV miRNAs, will be included in the computational model as factors influencing the oviductal environment and the predictive success of fertilisation."