Qualifications: B.Rur.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc.Agr, D.Sc.Agr.(Gott), FSRB
Professor Robert Gilchrist is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research in the School of Women's & Children's Health. He is a translational research scientist, specialising in oocyte and reproductive biology and is an international leader in oocyte-somatic cell communication, with prominent clinical and commercial activities.
- Oocyte-Cumulus Cell Interactions
A principal interest is understanding the dynamic cellular interactions between the oocyte and its neighbouring somatic cells the cumulus cells, and the significance of this interaction on the quality of the oocyte and resultant embryo. His research has contributed significantly to the concept that the oocyte actively regulates the differentiation and function of cumulus cells through the secretion of soluble paracrine factors. Conversely, cumulus cells nurture the growth and maturation of the oocyte by various means including via gap-junctions. He is interested in mechanisms regulating oocyte-cumulus cell gap-junctional communication.
- Oocyte GDF9 and BMP15 Paracrine Signalling
Dr Gilchrist’s group investigates the molecular nature of the key oocyte paracrine signalling molecules GDF9 and BMP15. This includes; production of novel forms of recombinant GDF9/BMP15, cellular mechanism regulating oocyte secretion of these growth factors, and intracellular consequences in cumulus cells (SMAD and MAPK signalling).
- Regulation of Oocyte Meiosis
His group is actively investigating the cellular mechanisms regulating oocyte meiotic arrest and resumption. This work focuses on the roles of cAMP and phosphodiesterases in the oocyte and cumulus cells and their regulation of oocyte maturation, particularly in an in vitro maturation (IVM) context.
- Oocyte In Vitro Maturation (IVM) Systems for Novel Reproductive Technologies
Dr Gilchrist is particularly active in the application of knowledge of cumulus-oocyte biology in the development of new oocyte IVM systems. The objective of this applied research program is to improve the developmental potential of IVM oocytes to provide new opportunities in human infertility treatment and in domestic animal advanced artificial breeding programs. New IVM systems in development include the use of exogenous GDF9/BMP15 during IVM and the on-going refinement of a new approach to IVM called SPOM (Simulated Physiological Oocyte Maturation). Human and veterinary pre-clinical trials are currently being conducted with end-user partners.