Development & reproduction

Cluster leader: Professor Terry Smith

Disorders of pregnancy and childbirth have major implications for the health of both mother and child. This research programme focuses on follicle growth and maturation, embryo development, and the molecular basis of pregnancy and associated disorders of pregnancy and childbirth. Understanding the mechanisms involved in reproductive biology will lead to new therapeutic interventions for pregnancy-associated disorders.
Key Research Areas
Follicular Growth, Ovulation and Oviduct Function
Dr Ailish Hynes, Dr Leo Quinlan

Work in this group is focused on two topics:

  1. The development of an ovarian follicle culture system to study oocyte maturation within the follicle.
  2. Oviduct secretions and their purinergic control

The objective of these studies is to facilitate the development of new therapies to treat infertility through the identification of novel therapeutic targets.
Early Embryo Development
Dr. Lucy Byrnes and Dr Maura Grealy

The process of how a fertilised egg develops into a fully-formed animal is the fascinating question that developmental biology seeks to answer. The fertilised single-cell egg divides to give rise to many millions of cells, which form structures as complex and varied as the eyes, arms, heart and brain. This in turn raises many questions such as:

  1. How do cells become different from each other?
  2. How do they become organized into structures such as limbs and brains?
  3. What controls the behaviour of individual cells?

We are now beginning to understand how genes control development. It is difficult to study human embryo development, due to ethical and practical considerations, so model species are used. Zebrafish is an excellent model species for developmental biology studies as it allows simultaneous application of both experimental embryology and extensive genetic analysis.

This research group is investigating what genes are first switched on during zebrafish embryo development.

Molecular basis of Disorders of Pregnancy and Childbirth
Professor Terry Smith and Professor John Morrison

Disorders of pregnancy and childbirth have major implications for the health of both mother and child, and have significant financial implications for the healthcare sector. Preterm birth is the leading cause of maternal and infant death, accounting for 75% of all infant deaths. Premature birth is also associated with a number of severe long-term physical and mental disabilities and with a significantly higher rate of chronic health problems in adulthood. In order to develop new therapeutic interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of preterm labour, an in-depth understanding of the factors, both maternal and foetal, which regulate pregnancy and labour, is essential. This research group is investigating the factors which regulate human pregnancy, and which determine the onset of labour, including disorders of labour.
 Principal Investigators  
 Terry Smith  Principal Investigator
 John Morrison  Principal Investigator
 Greally, Maura  Principal Investigator
 Byrnes, Lucy  Principal Investigator
Dockery, Peter  Principal Investigator

 Senior Researcher 

 O' Brien, Margaret   Senior Researcher

 Postgraduate Researcher
 Chandran, Sreenath  Post Graduate Researcher