Developing a method of fertility preservation for patients with ovarian cancer (Prof Suzannah Williams)
Developing a method of fertility preservation for patients with ovarian cancer
DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT
Ovarian cancer becomes more common with advancing age and is often detected late. For patients with ovarian cancer, the ovaries are removed and discarded rendering the patient infertile. For the patients who are still in their reproductive years who have not yet had their children, this means egg donation is the only option. Moreover this group of patients is increasing as more women are trying to start a family later in life. However, the ovaries of these patients can still contain immature eggs; these are known as primordial follicles from which all eggs develop.
In our laboratory, we have developed a technique to rescue follicle development in a mouse model with dysfunctional ovaries by isolating the immature oocytes from the dysfunctional tissue and growing them with an alternate source of somatic cells; this is known as the reaggregated ovary (RO). ROs can then be transplanted or cultured to generate mature follicles (Lo et al 2019). The aim of this DPhil project is to use the RO technique to isolate primordial oocytes from the ovaries of mice with ovarian cancer and support their development using replacement somatic cells as the first step for developing this method for patients.
The project will involve isolation of primordial oocytes from ovaries from mouse models of ovarian cancer; our current technique is likely to need optimising for diseased ovarian tissues. Second, to generate ROs using these primordial oocytes and analyse how the oocytes and follicle develop. Thirdly, using IVF to investigate fertilisation and embryo development of offspring that have been generated from RO matured eggs.
This project will provide training in working with mouse models, cell and tissue culture techniques, laboratory molecular techniques such as western blotting and immunohistochemistry, and imaging techniques such as confocal microscopy.
The Williams lab is a team and there are ample opportunities to get involved in other projects.
The student will be able to access the training schemes and courses provided for graduate students by the University of Oxford.
Funding information: The project is not funded and therefore the candidate will need to secure funding.
As well as the specific training detailed above, students will have access to a wide-range of seminars and training opportunities through the many research institutes and centres based in Oxford.