HERA study of women’s reproductive health receives Wellcome award


Reproductive ageing in women is critical for fertility, but also has profound influences more broadly on health and wellbeing. Recent research co-led by scientists at the University of Cambridge has identified genetic risk factors for a range of conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome, premature ovarian ageing (early age at menopause) and fertility. However, our understanding of the biological processes underpinning female reproductive health is still limited.

Announced on International Women’s Day, the Healthy Reproductive Ageing (HERA) study has been awarded a £5.6 million Wellcome Discovery Award. HERA will build on the earlier genomic research to build cellular models that will help accelerate our understanding of ovarian health and function. 

HERA is co-led by King's Fellow Professor John Perry of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, Professor Anna Murray at the University of Exeter Medical School, Professor Eva Hoffmann at the University of Copenhagen and Professor Stephen Franks of Imperial College London.

Professor Perry said: 

We are excited about the opportunities this generous funding will provide in an area that has been historically understudied in biomedical research. The state-of-the-art cellular engineering approaches we will take, combined with large-scale human genetic studies, promise to transform our understanding of the biological processes influencing reproductive health in women.

The study will take a multi-disciplinary approach, including genomic research in human populations, generation of cellular and organoid models for in vitro systems that resemble human ovarian tissue, mouse models of genetic risk factors identified in human genome studies, and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in human cells. In addition to identifying novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of conditions related to ovarian aging and health, this work will generate biological and computational resources for researchers around the world who are studying female reproductive health.

Professor Murray added: 

Having long-term funding for our research will enable us to really drive forward discoveries in women’s reproductive health, which is fundamental to finding new treatments. Our studies address an important and under-researched area of medicine and inform us about how reproductive ageing affects women’s health and wellbeing.




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