Exploring the role of insulin in regulating female reproductive health and age-related reproductive decline

Female reproductive decline (indicated by rising rates of infertility, birth defects, and miscarriage) is an early sign of aging, and is largely due to deteriorating quality of oocytes, or egg cells. Identifying the signaling pathways and mechanisms that control oocyte quality and reproductive decline is essential for better addressing female reproductive health issues, and can also provide key insights into other aspects of aging. Our research focuses on the ties between nutrients, reproduction, and aging. In organisms ranging from worms to humans, signaling pathways that detect nutrients -- such as the insulin signaling pathway -- seem to play crucial roles in coordinating metabolism, reproduction, and lifespan. We will use a mouse model of genetically reduced insulin to determine how lowering insulin affects oocyte quality and reproductive success during aging. We will also study how insulin levels determine features of polycystic ovary syndrome, a common hormonal disorder, and evaluate long-term consequences of temporary nutrient excess or depletion. We anticipate that this research will inform effective strategies to better manage female reproductive health, as well as to improve health during aging.