B.S. with Highest Honors, 1984, Cook College, Rutgers, the State University of NJ, New Brunswick, NJ
M.S. (Animal Sciences), 1987, Rutgers, the State University of NJ, (Graduate School – New Brunswick)
Ph.D. (Animal Sciences), 1990, Rutgers, the State University of NJ, (Graduate School – New Brunswick)
Fellow, 1990-1, Molecular Biology, University of California – San Diego
Fellow, 1991-3, Molecular Biology, Stanford University Medical Center
Area(s) of Expertise
Reproductive biology, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, infertility, and aging
My research program evaluates the mechanisms underlying development and death of female germ cells, and how these events impact on fertility and menopause in women. I have been studying reproductive biology in an academic setting for more than 27 years, and have consistently supported my research through NIH grants since the inception of my career. Recently, the NIA converted one of my grants to a R37 Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award, which provides 10 years of funding. I also oversee the training of Junior Faculty, Research Fellows and students (graduate and undergraduate) in experimental design, execution and analysis. I have served/serve on many committees both institutionally and nationally/internationally, including NIH Study Sections, academic promotion committees, editorial boards, and scientific advisory boards.
The long-term goal of my work is to improve women’s reproductive healthcare and overcome infertility by applying what we discover through preclinical research. For years, the focus of my work was on apoptosis or programmed cell death. We were the first to document that premature ovarian failure and infertility resulting from anti-cancer treatments involves the activation of apoptosis in oocytes. We then validated an anti-apoptotic small molecule that protects the ovaries from anti-cancer therapies and preserves normal reproductive function. We also identified a gene in mice that when silenced prolongs ovarian lifespan into very advanced age, eliminating the ‘mouse equivalent’ of menopause. This animal model has allowed us to explore, for the first time, the impact of sustained ovarian function on the aging female body.
Recently, I changed the focus of my work from cell death to renewal, based on our studies that challenge one of the most basic doctrines in our field by demonstrating the existence of germline stem cells that support new oocyte and follicle production in adult female mammals. These experiments have opened a number of avenues related to therapeutic manipulation of adult stem cells to overcome infertility and delay ovarian failure. Of course, none of this work would have been possible without the efforts of a large number of trainees whom I have had the pleasure of teaching and have since moved on to their own successful careers in academia and industry.
134 Mugar Life Sciences Building
A new era for human fertility research
In 2012, Jonathan Tilly’s team published research in which it identified that certain cells in adult human ovaries produce viable new eggs.