Researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University have been awarded a $6.4 million dollar grant by the National Institutes of Health to develop new contraceptive methods with fewer side effects. The funds, which will only be provided to three other institutions in the country, will establish Contraceptive Development Research Centers. The 5-year grants are funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a component of the NIH.
“While current oral contraceptive methods for women are effective, these medications contain both estrogen and progesterone, hormones that prevent ovulation by blocking pituitary gland function. The problem with this system is that other cells are also activated by estrogen. While safe for most women, undesired side effects, such as increased blood clots can occur with hormonal methods,” explained co-principal investigator Richard L. Stouffer, Ph.D., a scientist at ONPRC. Jeffrey T. Jensen, M.D., M.P.H., another scientist at the primate center and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, is the other co-principal investigator. Additional OHSU researchers involved in the project include Drs. Xuemei Wu, Jon Hennebold, Ov Slayden and Mary Zelinski.
The three other institutions to receive grants funding Contraceptive Development Research Centers are the University of Washington, the University of Kansas, and the Population Council, a non-profit organization which conducts fertility research. Together with OHSU, these three research organizations will work together to develop new and improved contraception methods for men and women.
At OHSU, research will focus on events in women during the menstrual cycle prior to egg fertilization. Three distinct projects will involve investigations into:
- Blocking the release of the egg from the ovary
- Preventing the maturation of the egg prior to fertilization
- Blocking egg and sperm transport in the reproductive tract
“To investigate these new contraceptive methods, we will work with a team of experts across the spectrum of female health,” explained Dr. Jensen. “Molecular biologists will work side-by-side with clinicians and those with expertise in primate reproductive systems. Rhesus monkeys are an excellent model for human reproduction and they will help us determine the viability of these three novel approaches.”
OHSU is also home to the NICHD-funded Contraceptive Clinical Trial Network. The network offers Oregonians access to some of the newest contraceptive methods via clinical trials. These clinical studies are coordinated by the Women’s Health Research Unit of the OHSU Center for Women’s Health. With the award of the new contraceptive center grant, OHSU is the only institution in the country where both programs exist simultaneously.
The ONPRC is a registered research institution, inspected regularly by the United States Department of Agriculture. It operates in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and has an assurance of regulatory compliance on file with the National Institutes of Health. The ONPRC also participates in the voluntary accreditation program overseen by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC).