UNR Med receives $7 million NIH grant award to fund new National Center for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility

New research center to conduct long-term study of men’s reproductive health

Photo of Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., AAAS Fellow, department of physiology and cell biology at UNR Med.

UNR Med professor Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., AAAS Fellow, department of physiology and cell biology, is leading a research study on men's reproductive health which investigates how sperm quality affects health and disease susceptibility in offspring. Photo by Theresa Danna-Douglas.

About 9% of men and nearly 11% of women of reproductive age in the United States have experienced fertility problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In one-third of infertile couples, men are often the source of the infertility.

A research team at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med), under the direction of Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., AAAS Fellow, department of physiology and cell biology, received a $7 million grant award from the Fertility and Infertility Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The grant will fund a new National Center for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility (NCTRI), making UNR Med  one of only eight centers in the country and the first such center to focus on sperm epigenomics. UNR Med joins well-known NCTRI institutions including Cornell University, Harvard University, Northwestern University and the University of California, San Francisco, among others.  

The $7 million will fund a new and major long-term study of men's reproductive health in the Yan lab, which investigates how sperm quality affects health and disease susceptibility   in offspring.   

"We will be studying young men with metabolic syndrome and comparing their sperm quality before and after diet and exercise interventions," said Yan. "The findings will lead to new understandings of how men with metabolic syndrome associated with a high-fat diet and lack of exercise transmit the disease tendency to their children via sperm."  

"Our overall goal is to understand short- and long-term effects of a healthy lifestyle on sperm quality, as quality of sperm may have a significant impact on the susceptibility of certain diseases in offspring, for example, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease," said Yan.  

NCTRI is a national network of reproduction and infertility research centers that promote multidisciplinary interactions between basic and clinical scientists in quality reproductive sciences research programs. NCTRI centers serve as national resources for the training and career development of young scientists pursuing research careers in priority areas of reproduction and infertility. The centers facilitate and accelerate knowledge transfer between the laboratory and clinic, with the goal of improving human reproductive health through enhanced communication, innovation and research excellence.  

The new grant will employ four project leaders and three core directors across three institutions. UNR Med will employ two core directors and a project leader who will collaborate with other project leaders from The Lundquist Institute at  Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, as well as the University of Texas at San Antonio. Together, six to eight post-docs and many students will be involved in the project over the next five years.   

"The work that Dr. Yan and his research team are doing in men's reproductive health is significant because it may prove an interesting idea that disease prevention starts from better sperm quality due to a healthy lifestyle," said UNR Med Dean, Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.  "The new NCTRI Center here is evidence that UNR Med is at the forefront of innovative solutions to improve human health."


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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Tuesday October 8, 2019 @ 6:00 AM