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New $1.5 Million Grant to Fund Infertility Research at OU

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - Campus News - Contact Theresa Green, (405) 833-9824

The five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health is the largest to date for the OU reproductive medicine team. It adds the OU Health Sciences to an elite group of centers nationwide participating in cutting-edge infertility research. 

"We were one of six sites selected to participate in a research cooperative, the Reproductive Medicine Network, that will conduct infertility research on a variety of issues," said Karl Hansen, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator. "This grant represents an important milestone for our Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility program at the OU Health Sciences Center in recognition of our ability to conduct high-quality clinical trials in the area of reproductive medicine."

The Reproductive Medicine Network was created to carry out important multi-center clinical trials that are too large to be carried out by a single institution.  Currently, the OU Health Sciences Center is the only site in the central United States named to the network.  Other sites are in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and California.

"It allows us to bring promising clinical trials research in reproductive health to this part of the country.   In the past, couples in Oklahoma and the Midwest wouldn't have had access to the newest cutting-edge treatments though participation in these large-scale clinical trials." Hansen said.

As part of its grant proposal, the OU team hopes to evaluate the effectiveness of adding progesterone to the latter phase of the menstrual cycle in combination with oral medications and intrauterine insemination on pregnancy rates. Progesterone would be supplemented with a vaginal gel designed to deliver the hormone slowly over a 24-hour period. 

"Multiple studies have suggested that supplemental progesterone may improve the outcomes of these types of treatments.  However, all of these studies have been too small to definitively answer the question," Hansen said.

All six centers selected to participate in the Reproductive Medicine Network have submitted research proposals. Hansen said that means the OU team will have the opportunity to participate in several quality studies over the next five years. 
Rebekah and Charles Swantek of Shawnee know how important those clinical trials can be. They had no trouble conceiving their first child; but five years and several miscarriages later, they began to wonder if they would ever have a second child. A referral to Dr. Hansen and the reproductive health team changed all of that.

"We were patients and also offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial," Rebekah Swantek said. "When you are trying to grow your family and you have a problem with that, for whatever reason, it can be consuming and overwhelming.  So, when a clinical trial comes along that you have to qualify for and meet certain parameters, it means there is a scientist somewhere that thinks they can help you, and there is hope in that."
 
Thanks to that clinical trial and the care they received at OU Medicine, the Swanteks were successful in conceiving and delivering a healthy baby girl.  Just 18 months later, they delivered another baby girl.  

"I can't say enough about Dr. Hansen and the entire team," she said. In Dr. Hansen's office you don't just feel like a patient, you honestly feel like they care about you and your end result every step of the way.  
Dr. Hansen said the new grant will bring more promising, new clinical trials to Oklahoma  for the benefit of couples struggling with infertility throughout the state and the region. 

"The network has previously studied important fertility issues including determining the best treatments for unexplained infertility, the best culture conditions for in vitro fertilization and the best method of inducing ovulation in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, to name a few," Hansen said. 
In addition, Hansen said the grant also brings an important opportunity for the OU Reproductive Medicine team.  

"The knowledge we gain from participation in clinical trials as part of the Reproductive Medicine Network can ultimately help bring even more research grant dollars to the OU Health Sciences Center," Hansen said. 
The $1.5 million grant was awarded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health.

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