News from RHA

RHA’s Founder elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences

11th October 2019

Professor Jock Findlay AO has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS), acknowledging his significant achievements in reproductive health research and his contributions to the field of female reproduction.

 Research in reproductive health has led to major advances in the development of assisted reproduction technologies such as IVF, where Australian researchers have led the way in reproductive medicine therapies used around the world. Prof Findlay has been a leader in reproductive biology in Australia and overseas since the 1970s and is internationally recognised for his contributions to our understanding of ovarian physiology. His research continues to investigate the regulation of the ovarian reserve of eggs, and chemoresistance and metastasis of ovarian cancer.

 Prof Findlay has long been a passionate advocate for research in reproduction and in 2018 he founded Reproductive Health Australia to highlight the broad impact of Australian reproduction research on human health, wildlife and the environment and agricultural productivity.



Australian researchers part of a global effort to improve the diagnosis and treatment Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

16th August 2019

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex condition in women, involving ovarian changes and altered hormones that can produce a wide variety of symptoms such as abnormal menstrual cycles, reduced fertility, acne, weight gain, excessive hair growth and sleep and mood disturbances. The condition affects 12-18% of reproductive age, yet more than two thirds of women remain undiagnosed.    

Diagnosis of PCOS is delayed by an average of two years and the care is often inconsistent due to the multifaceted nature of the condition. Women report a high level of dissatisfaction with the quality of information provided and the importance of prevention, risk reduction for associated chronic disease and mental health is commonly not communicated.

To increase the quality of care for PCOS patients, the first evidence-based international guideline on PCOS was recently published and a summary of the recommendations was later co-published in 3 high quality journals. 

The Australian Centre for Research Excellence in PCOS (CREPCOS) led the development of the guideline in partnership with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). The consultation also involved 63 international multidisciplinary experts and consumer members representing 37 international societies and consumer groups across 71 countries, resulting in 166 recommendations and practice points. 

The PCOS Guideline provides clinicians with clear advice on best practice based on the best available evidence, expert multidisciplinary input and consumer preferences. Research recommendations have been generated and a comprehensive multifaceted dissemination and translation program supports the guideline with an integrated evaluation program.

View the PCOS guideline here

Find details of the first online course for medical practitioners here

Find resources for women with PCOS here

Reproductive Health Australia publishes review in the international journal Reproduction

17th July 2019

RHA members Jock Findlay, Michael Holland and Bob Wong have published an invited review  in the international journal Reproduction.

The review “Reproductive science and the future of the planet” showcases how reproductive science can be used to advance human health, livestock production and environmental management.

The review also highlights how Reproductive Health Australia plans to advocate for, and publicise, the health, economic and social benefits of reproductive health research.

You can find the published version of the manuscript here.

Helping the laws of nature

29th May 2019

Interview with Dr Melissa Parrott, reproductive biologist at Zoos Victoria and RHA member

“I hope my research contributes to having the best conservation programs possible, because every species is precious, important and worth saving.”

Dr Marissa Parrott is a reproductive biologist at Zoos Victoria. She has a deep love for animals, especially Victoria’s beautiful indigenous species.  She works in an evolving and exciting area of research – ‘female mate choice’ – using animals’ natural behaviours to improve breeding success, which is significant for zoos and captive breeding institutions. Marissa’s work over her career has focussed on devising simple tests using scents from genetically suitable males to provide a choice of mates for females. Marissa monitors the female’s behaviour and timing to determine her choice. This work has more than doubled the breeding success, and reduced the time to pregnancy in species such as the Stripe-faced Dunnart and Mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot, which is extinct in the wild and the focus of a long-term recovery program.

“One of my favourite moments was finding new critically endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum joeys following our mate-choice research at Healesville Sanctuary.”

Marissa’s work has a practical application for zoos and captive breeding institutions where, traditionally, animals are paired based on pedigree and relatedness to manage the genetics of the population. Choosing suitable males to manage the population genetics, and then providing a female with a choice of those males, may increase breeding success, decrease the time taken to become pregnant, reduce aggression between pairs, and improve the quality, success and survival of young. Females often choose males that are most genetically suitable for themselves, which leads to healthy and fit young.

Marissa’s vision is big. She plans to build on this research to advance local and international breeding programs by freezing scents and then offering them to females. Frozen scents could determine which male would be most successful and accepted by a female, and could be transported across the globe. This would save a large amount of stress, time and cost when moving animals for breeding, and avoiding compatibility issues.

Marissa says, ”there is much to do as each species is different, some females choose mates based on genetic relatedness, while others may choose based on familiarity, age, social dominance, secondary sexual characteristics, displays or other criteria. The more we can find out about a species’ natural behaviours, the better our breeding and reintroduction programs will be”.

“My work at Zoos Victoria is fighting extinction for our most critically endangered species. We have a commitment that no Victorian terrestrial vertebrate species will go extinct on our watch”.