by Buck Institute

The Buck announces first faculty appointments for the Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality

Lei Lei, PhD

Shiying Jin. PhD

Francesca E. Duncan PhD, OB/GYN

Jennifer Garrison, PhD

Lei Lei, PhD, Shiying Jin, PhD, Francesca Duncan, PhD, and Jennifer Garrison, PhD are the first faculty members to join the Buck Institute’s Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality. The Center, the first of its kind in the world, focuses on preventing or delaying ovarian aging, a subject that has been understudied in research in aging. Beyond losing the ability to reproduce, the end of female fertility sets off a cascade of negative health effects, and early menopause has been shown to correlate with early morbidity.  The new Center was established with a $6 million gift from Bay Area tech entrepreneur, attorney and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan and the Sergey Brin Family Foundation.

The Lei lab is focused on understanding how the biological clock of ovarian aging is set initially and the fundamental differences between young and old oocytes, the cells in the ovary which are capable of forming ova. In females, oocytes that develop in the fetal ovary serve as the only source for sustaining ovarian function in adulthood. Although a baby girl has over 1 million oocytes in her ovaries, over 90 percent of the potential ova remain quiescent and undergo cell death.  Drastic declines in oocyte quality and quantity in young and middle-aged women lead to ovarian aging and a significantly increased chance of infertility and birth defects. By understanding the fundamental biology of the onset of ovarian aging, Lei and her team aim to develop biomedical strategies to prevent or delay ovarian aging physiologically. Lei, who has been appointed as Associate Professor and Scientific Director of the Center, joins the Buck from the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her research findings have published in Science, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other prestigious journals.

Dr. Shiying Jin is also joining the Buck from the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has been appointed as Assistant Professor of the Center. One of his main research interests is to establish effective approaches for female fertility preservation before ovarian aging initiates. By engineering ovarian tissue, Jin has developed an approach for protecting and storing young oocytes in mice. The long-term aim of this research is to establish an effective fertility preservation strategy in humans. Jin’s other research focus is to uncover the mechanisms of uterine regeneration during physiological and pathological states in both mice and humans. Disorders involving the regeneration of the uterine lining are common among women with increasing age, leading to a wide range of pathologies including infertility, endometriosis and uterine cancer. Dr. Jin recently identified stem cells that sustain uterine epithelial regeneration by establishing the first genetic single-cell lineage tracing system in the whole mouse uterus, a fundamental cellular source for balancing uterine regeneration, health and diseases. This finding was reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We welcome these two new faculty members to our collaborative research environment,” said Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO. “Our expertise in the basic biology of aging will enable and enrich their efforts to meet a critical need in promoting human health. Several of our labs are already teed up to work on joint projects.”

In addition to Drs. Lei Lei and Shiying Jin, Jennifer Garrison, PhD, a Buck institute neuroscientist, will also join the Center. The Garrison lab is exploring the role of inter-tissue communication between the brain and reproductive organs in ovarian aging. Francesca Duncan, PhD, an internationally recognized leader in ovarian aging in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, will also join the Center as an Adjunct Professor.

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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