Prof. Lois A. Salamonsen received her Bachelor of Science (honours) degree in Biochemistry from Otago University in New Zealand and her PhD in Reproductive Biology from Monash University, Australia. Her PhD thesis examined blastocyst-endometrial interactions in sheep during early pregnancy, using a proteomic approach. Since then, her research has focused on human uterine biology, specifically on mechanisms underlying endometrial remodeling including menstruation and endometrial repair and on endometrial receptivity for implantation.
Prof. Salamonsen has published over 250 papers, review articles and book chapters in the fields of endometrial remodeling and implantation and has over 6000 citations. She is currently Associate Editor for the international journals, Biology of Reproduction and Reproductive Sciences, on the Editorial Boards of Journal of Reproductive Immunology, Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, and Repropedia (the reproductive lexicon), and is a member of the Faculty of 1000.
She was President of the Society for Reproductive Biology from 2004 to 2006, and was awarded the premier award of this Society, the Founder’s lecture, in 2009. Prof. Salamonsen is currently NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Head of Uterine Biology Division at the Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research, and Honorary Professor in the Dept of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia.
Her current research involves studying the genes and proteins involved in endometrial remodelling during the menstrual cycle with particular focus on the receptive phase, and during embryo implantation and early pregnancy using a variety of established in vivo and in vitro functional models together with genomic (eg microarrays, antisense technologies) and proteomic technologies.
Project: Uterine receptivity: the final hurdle in IVF
For successful establishment of a pregnancy, both the embryo and the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), must be in synchrony. During most of each menstrual cycle, the endometrium will not allow implantation of the embryo: it becomes ‘receptive’ for implantation for only ~4 days in each cycle, generally between 5-9 days after ovulation.
It is now clear from our work and that of others, that inadequate uterine receptivity is a major reason for IVF failure and that the take-home baby rate will be markedly increased if selected good quality embryos are replaced only into a receptive uterine environment. No reliable test for endometrial receptivity is available.
Our overall aim is to discover and validate biomarkers of uterine receptivity. Our previous work indicates that:
(a) fluid from the uterine cavity is readily obtained by gentle washing of the cavity with a salt solution: this has proven better for analysis than tissue samples collected by biopsy, which are much more complex.
(b) proteins are present in the ‘receptive phase’ uterine fluid that can differentiate between cohorts of infertile women and fertile women.
(c) many of these proteins appear in a number of different forms known as glycoproteins in which different complex sugars are attached to the protein core. Frequently dysregulation of only one or two of these forms is observed in the fluid from infertile women.
This project will apply innovative highly targeted proteomic analyses to uterine fluid. Recent publications have indicated that proteins present in endometrial biopsies undergo detectable changes to their sugar composition at the time of ovulation. Utilising special proteins called lectins, which bind specifically to different sugars, we will analyse and characterise the altered glycosylation profile of individual proteins.
We will compare protein glycoforms present in pooled fluid taken at the relevant time of the menstrual cycle, from fertile and infertile women. Those that are altered between the two groups will be validated on cohorts of individual women. Subsequent development of novel glycoform assays will provide for quantitative analysis.
The most promising markers will also be tested on lavage taken from women undergoing IVF who subsequently do or do not become pregnant in that cycle, and from egg donors.
Her publication record, together with those of co-investigators, Dr Tracey Edgell and Assoc. Prof Luk Rombauts, attests to the feasibility of this project.