Reproductive Biology Hub

Supporting cross-disciplinary collaborations to advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying reproductive aging.

Understanding the mechanisms underlying reproductive aging

The Reproductive Biology Hub is embedded in the Center for Reproductive Longevity and Equality (CRLE) at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The mission of the​ Hub is to enable, support, and promote cross-disciplinary collaborations between the fields of reproductive science and aging to advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying female reproductive aging.

The Hub collaborates with interested researchers to provide project design consultation, experimental support and execution, data analysis, and training as relevant. The Hub has expertise to support studies involving gamete, gonad, early embryo, and reproductive tract biology across mammalian model systems. 

  • Francesca E. Duncan, PhD . Director

    Dr. Duncan has spent her research career focusing on female reproductive health. She graduated from Haverford College with a BS in Biology and Biochemistry (2000) and earned her doctorate in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania (2006) under the mentorship of Dr. Carmen Williams. She then did her first postdoctoral fellowship (2006-2009) at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Richard Schultz followed by a five year span (2009-2014) in Dr. Teresa Woodruff’s laboratory at Northwestern where she transitioned from a post-doctoral fellow to an Assistant Research Professor. She then established an independent research program as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (2014-2016) before being recruited back to Northwestern in her current position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Executive Director of the Center for Reproductive Science. Research in the Duncan laboratory uses mammalian model systems (mouse, bovine, and human) to test the overarching hypothesis that deterioration of gamete-intrinsic cellular pathways together with changes in the ovarian microenvironment contribute to the reproductive age-associated decline in egg quantity and quality. The laboratory’s work is at the interface of reproductive aging and systemic aging; physiologic and iatrogenic reproductive aging; gamete, follicle, and ovarian biology; and reproductive science and medicine. Insights from this research will help design targeted interventions to ameliorate reproductive aging, laying the foundation to simultaneously improve women’s fertile-span and health-span across generations. Research in her lab is funded by NIH R01 and R21 awards. Dr. Duncan has >50 manuscripts in the peer-reviewed literature and has been featured in the press. Beyond the bench, Dr. Duncan enjoys teaching and is an active faculty member in the Frontiers in Reproduction program and Associate Director of the Northwestern Predoctoral Training Program in Reproductive Science, Medicine, and Technology. She is the recipient of several honors and awards, including a 2017 Fulbright fellowship and the 2019 Society for the Study of Reproduction Virendra B. Mahesh New Investigator award.

    FDuncan@buckinstitute.org

  • Julia L. Balough . Operations Leader

    Julia L. Balough, MS is the Operations Leader of the Reproductive Biology Hub and the Duncan Laboratory. The Reproductive Biology Hub launched in 2020 and is embedded in the Center for Reproductive Longevity and Equality (CRLE) with the mission to enable, support, and promote cross-disciplinary collaborations between the fields of reproductive science and aging to advance the understanding of the mechanisms underlying female reproductive aging. Jules oversees Hub operations, supervises staff, manages collaborations and training as well as runs independent reproductive aging basic science within the Hub. If you are interested in incorporating reproductive endpoints in your research, collaborating with the Duncan lab or utilizing the Hub’s services, please contact Jules at jbalough@buckinstitute.com. Jules received a Master of Reproductive Science and Medicine in 2019 from Northwestern University and trained as a Clinical Embryologist at Reproductive Partners Medical Group in Los Angeles between 2015-2017. Jules received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Santa Clara University in 2015.

    JBalough@buckinstitute.org

  • Cosmo Hahn . Research Associate

    Cosmo Hahn is a recent graduate from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor degree in neuroscience. His lab experiences and interests include stem cell fate decisions, neurodevelopment, and reproductive aging. Cosmo is a Research Associate within the Reproductive Biology Hub and the Duncan Lab at the Buck. Cosmo collaborates with aging researchers as well as performs reproductive aging basic research within the Duncan Lab. He likes to spend his free time on outdoor activities such as mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, etc. His future plans include attending a graduate program where he can continue to conduct biomedical research.

    CHahn@buckinstitute.org

The Reproductive Biology Hub is made possible by a grant from the Bia-Echo Foundation and in cooperation with the Global Consortium for Reproductive Longevity and Equality.

The Hub provides expertise, services, training, and facilities in:

  • Project design consultation
  • Reproductive tissue collection for morphological, quantitative and molecular analyses
  • Gamete collection for in vitro maturation and fertilization assays
  • Breeding and mating performance evaluation
  • Reproductive endocrine function intervention and assessment
  • Data analysis, and training as relevant

The Hub welcomes internal and external collaborations.

The Hub charges researchers at an hourly rate for staff service or equipment usage.

External collaborations will be evaluated on a per-project basis.

For further information or to schedule a consultation, please contact Julia Balough at jbalough@buckinstitute.org

Techniques

  • Breeding/Fertility Trial
  • Ovarian Reserve Analysis
  • Estrous Cyclicity Analysis
  • Gamete and gonad collection
  • Reproductive cell culture (follicle, oocyte, egg, embryo)
  • In-vitro maturation and fertilization
  • Semen Analysis
  • Micromanipulation and microinjection
  • Histological and morphological tissue analysis

Equipment

  • Wide-stage Dissection Microscopes: Leica M165 on TL5000 Base with Heated stage and Camera
  • Box Incubators: Thermo Scientific Heracell VIOS 160i Tri-Gas CO2 Incubator, 100% Copper
  • EVOS Cell Imaging System for live cell, whole-mount, or tissue section imaging
  • CFX384 Touch Real-Time PCR Detection System
  • Azure600 Western Blot Imaging System

Please contact us for collaboration, technology or consultation inquiries.

Julia L. Balough, MS.
Reproductive Biology Hub, Operations Leader
jbalough@buckinstitute.org   

 

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