Research

The department has strong research activities. Presently, there are several basic, clinical, and translational projects going on.

Reproductive Immunology and Molecular Biology Research Laboratories.

Dr. Naz's research interests are in the area of gonad-specific gene expression, contraceptive vaccine development, fertilization, and infertility. Besides availability of various modalities of contraception, the world population has exceeded 7.1 billion and is increasing at the rate of 1 billion every 10-11 years. There are over 1 million elective abortions every year in the U.S. and over 45 million in the whole world due to unintended pregnancies. Also, one million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur every day. There is an urgent need for a better method for contraception that is acceptable and effective.

His laboratory focuses on delineating sperm-specific antigens that have a role in antisperm antibody-mediated in infertility, and can be used for the development of contraceptive vaccines in men and women. Over 10% of infertility is caused by antisperm antibodies produced in male and/or female partner of an infertile couple. The molecules and mechanisms causing the development of antisperm antibodies and infertility are unclear. Various advanced techniques of molecular biology, immunology, cell biology, reproductive biology, proteomics, and genomics are employed. Over ten genes that are specifically expressed in human testis, ovary, and prostate have been cloned and sequenced, and published from the laboratory. Novel genes are actively being searched that have a role in gamete (sperm/oocyte) function and embryogenesis, and signal transduction pathways. Recombinant, DNA, and peptide vaccines are developed based upon these novel genes/recombinant proteins/bioactive peptide epitopes for contraceptive vaccine development. Another approach for immunocontraception is using preformed recombinant human antibodies of defined specificities. Human recombinant antibodies against defined sperm antigens that cause infertility are being engineered in vitro by the recombinant technology for immunocontraception. Dr. Naz has some developing interests in prostate cancer, immunopathology of pregnancy, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and endocrine disruptors. Presently, several basic, clinical, and translational research projects are going on.

Dr. Naz has published over 205 peer- reviewed full length articles in reputed journals including Science, PNAS, and JCI, authored/edited 8 books, served on several study sections of the NIH, DOD, and various international funding agencies, and is presently in the editorial boards of over 13 journals including Human Reproduction, Molecular Reproduction and Development, Andrology, and Amerian Journal of Reproductive Immunology. The research activities are funded by grants from various local, state, private, and federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and WVCTSI. He has trained over 62 students, residents, and post-doctoral fellows, and over 135 undergraduate student workers. His lab is one of the pioneers in the contraceptive vaccine development.

Selected Recent Publications (2010-2014):

Naz RK, Dhandapani L: Identification of human sperm proteins that interact with human pellucida3 (ZP3) using yeast two-hybrid system. J Reprod Immunol 84, 24-31, 2010. PMID: 19945174

Naz RK, Catalano B: Gene knockouts that affect female fertility: novel targets for contraception. Front Biosci S2, 1092-112, 2010. PMID: 20515843

Naz RK: Can curcumin provide an ideal contraceptive? Mol Reprod Dev 78, 116-123, 2011. PMID: 21337449

Naz RK: Contraceptive Vaccines: Where we are and where we are going? Am J Reprod Immunol 66, 5-12, 2011. PMID: 21481057

Lemons AR, Naz RK: Contraceptive vaccines targeting factors involved in establishment of pregnancy. Am J Reprod Immunol 66, 13-25, 2011. PMID: 21481058

Naz RK: Female genital tract immunity: distinct immunological challenge and vaccine development. J Reprod Immunol 93, 1-8, 2012. PMID: 22154945

Lemons AR, Naz RK: Birth control vaccine targeting leukemia inhibitory factor. Mol Reprod Dev 79, 97-106, 2012. PMID: 22139866

Hoover P, Naz RK: Do men with prostate abnormalities (prostatitis/benign prostatic hyperplasia/ prostate cancer) develop immunity to spermatozoa or seminal plasma? Int J Androl 35, 608-615, 2012. PMID: 22321000

Clark S, Naz RK: Presence and incidence of izumo antibodies in sera of immunoinfertile women and men. Am J Repod Immunol  69, 256-263,2013. PMID:23279005

Naz RK, Butler TS:  Antibodies to prostate-specific antigen in immunoinfertile women and men. J Reprod Immunol  97, 217-222,2013. PMID: 23415846

 Erin Barthelmess, Naz RK : Polycystic ovary syndrome:current status and future perspective. Front Biosci 6, 104-119, 2014. PMID: 24389146

Naz RK:  Recent progress toward development of vaccines against conception. Expert  Rev Vaccines 13, 145-154,2014. PMID:24308631

Naz RK, Lough ML: Curcumin as a potential non-steroidal  contraceptive with spermicidal  and microbicidal properties. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 176:142-148,2014. PMID: 24702904

View more at PubMed

Nationally-Designated Center of Excellence in Women’s Health

West Virginia University, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences, is one of the 20 national Centers for Excellence in Women’s Health awarded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. It is an interdisciplinary program focused on developing strategies for identifying and treating gender-related health issues. It provides comprehensive health care for women, promotes research on women’s health, educate health care providers, and reaches out to improve women’s health. Barbara Ducatman, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology is the director, and several faculty members of Obstetrics and Gynecology are a part of the center. The details can be found at http://www.wvhealthywomen.org/

WV Healthy Start/HAPI Project

WV Healthy Start/HAPI (Helping Appalachian Parents and Infants) Project is a Healthy Start program federally funded through Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is one of the 96 healthy start programs in the nation. The department recently received a second four year cycle of funding. The goal of the project is to improve pregnancy/birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality by serving low income prenatal and post-partum/interconceptional women. Penny Womeldorff is the project director and several faculty members are part of this comprehensive project.

March of Dimes Grant on Prevention of Prenatal Substance Abuse-A Model for Screening, Education and Referral

The department recently received this grant to develop prenatal substance abuse screening. This project supplement the HAPI project that is described above.

Prochieve Progesterone Gel Study

This is a phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study to assess the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of Prochieve® 8% progesterone gel in preventing preterm delivery in pregnant women at increased-risk for preterm delivery. Several faculty members participate in this study and Jodi Rhodes is the coordinator.

Resident Research Day / Annual Palladino Lecture

Every year we have Annual Resident Research Day in March/April , where our residents present  the findings of their research projects. The presentations are evaluated by a panel of judges.   We also invite an eminent physician scientist   who acts as Chief Guest for the event and gives  the Annual Palladino lecture. The names of  Chief   Guests for the last nine years are :

  • 2006. William Haffner, MD, USPHS
  • 2007. Peter Quesenberry, MD
  • 2008. Richard Legro, MD
  • 2009. Gerald Schatten, PhD
  • 2010. Charles Lockwood, MD
  • 2011. Robert N. Taylor, MD, PhD
  • 2012. Jerome F. Strauss, III, MD, PhD
  • 2013. Errol Norwitz, MD, PhD
  • 2014. E. Keith Inskeep, PhD

In 2014, the resident presentations were:

  1. Wendy Thompson, "Nutrition Interventions:  Feedback from PCOS Focused Practitioners".
  2. Karen Fluet, Ashley Peters, Sepi Samzadeh, PGY-3 Quality Improvement Project "Anemia in pregnancy at WVU:  Rate and treatment"
  3. Krystal Baker, "Does the introduction of a focused addiction medicine curriculum improve the knowledge, attitudes and practice of resident physician managing pregnant patients with an addiction problem?".
  4. Jennifer Payne, "Comparing Gentamicin and Clindamicin verus Ancef for Antibiotic Prophylaxix Prior to Cesarean Section in Obese Women".
  5. Rawan El-Amin, "Behavioral Interviewing – how does it size up?".

Information for human subject research training and IRB submission is available at the following sites:

Human Subjects Research Training

IRB online submission