Anna C. Denicol
From activation of primordial follicles to recruitment of a new wave of antral follicles in every estrus or menstrual cycle, a series of timely regulated events must occur to ensure successful female reproduction. Development of an oocyte that can support embryonic survival depends on the orchestrated action of local and systemic factors. Moreover, a new player has recently been introduced in the oogenesis scenario: oogonial stem cells, a population of cells identified in the ovaries of reproductive-age females of several species. These cells have germ cell characteristics, and when isolated from the ovary, can proliferate, differentiate into oocytes, form follicles and generate offspring following fertilization. However, very little is currently known about the biology of these cells and their role in postnatal oogenesis.
My research focuses on local and systemic regulation of preantral follicle growth, effects of environmental changes on the follicular developmental program and carry over effects on embryo development and survival, with the goal of understanding the long term consequences of stressors such as negative energy balance or undernutrition on reproduction. Moreover, I focus on unravelling the physiological roles of oogonial stem cells as a potential source of gametes during postnatal life, and on developing and refining systems where these cells can be used as a model to study oogenesis as well as a tool to improve success of assisted reproductive techniques in livestock, wildlife species and humans.