Reproductive Biology – Program

High and stable fertilization rates with a concomitant reduction in pre- and postnatal losses, as well as an increase in the vitality of the offspring are economically essential and support the strong ethical demands for a sustainable and species-appropriate agricultural system.

Research theme 1 – Regulatory mechanisms controlling the ovarian cycle

The ovarian cycle is regulated by a complex network of hormonally active cells and tissues. Its correct function depends strongly on the metabolic status of the animal (feeding, lactation, etc.) as well as on environmental conditions (management, stress, endocrine disrupting chemicals, etc.). Under this research theme factors and control mechanisms within the ovarian cycle are being investigated in the context of genetic variation and differing environmental conditions. This will allow a better understanding of fundamental processes that control female fertility and will thus, help to avoid fertility problems. The knowledge gained will also help to improve the various procedures of reproductive biotechnology (e.g. IVM, AI, cycle synchronization).

Research theme 2 – Germ cell maturation

As a prerequisite for the production of healthy offspring germ cells must undergo a series of tightly controlled differentiation steps in a precisely coordinated sequence. The aim of this research theme is to elucidate the complex regulatory steps by using biochemical, cell biological and molecular approaches to explore specific glycans, proteins and signaling pathways that are essential for the development of competent eggs and sperm.

Research theme 3 – Pregnancy and the embryo-maternal dialogue

The metabolic competence of the uterus, as well as its blood and nutrient supply, are essential for the metabolic exchange between the maternal and fetal organism and the development of healthy offspring. An inadequate interaction between the embryo (conceptus) and the female reproductive tract, and insufficient metabolic support by the uterus, are common causes for early embryonic mortality or fetal growth retardation. The principal aims within this research theme are to understand the precise mechanisms by which embryos implant into the uterus, the local influences of the uterine environment, as well as the effects of endogenous and exogenous factors on the dynamic progression of pregnancy and fetal development.

Research theme 4 – Reproductive Immunology

Immunomodulatory mechanisms are being investigated, which have to take place during fertilization and the establishment and maintenance of a successful pregnancy. In addition, the synthesis and transfer of bioactive molecules from dam to its newborn is in the focus of interest.