Reproductive Genetics Pioneer - Professor Martin Matzuk
Professor and Director, Center for Drug Discovery; Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pathology & Immunology
By Chih-chun J. Lin
Dr. Martin M. Matzuk was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2014, for his pioneering contribution in fertility research. Infertility is a problem for more than 10% of couples in the United Sates. For instance, between 2006 and 2010, around 7.3 million women (age 15-44) reported ever having sought out infertility services. Driven by the pressing need to help these people treat their infertility, research scientists at Baylor College of Medicine have been endeavoring to understand the regulation of our reproductive system. Dr. Martin M. Matzuk, one of BCM’s leading professors in this field, also the director of the Center for Drug Discovery (CDD) and vice chair of Pathology & Immunology, has long been recognized for advancing both academic research and clinical patient care in the fields of male and female reproductive health.
Dr. Matzuk’s research team is looking into the signaling pathways that regulate ovarian development and uterine function. They recently patented their discovery of the function of the heterodimer GDF9:MBP15 in promoting ovarian maturation. This finding holds promise for use in ovarian in vitro maturation (IVM) technology. IVM, compared to the current assisted reproductive technology, does not require the step of hormone injection into patients; therefore, it eliminates the risks of some life-threatening side effects, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
The Matzuk lab is also collaborating with Dr. Masahito Ikawa from Osaka University to develop a pipeline to generate novel mouse models, each harboring a single mutation in one of the testis-specific genes that are potentially infertility-associated. This project will give rise to valuable tools, allowing scientists to study how altering the function of a specific gene affects the development and/or function of the male reproductive tract.
In the realm of drug discovery, Dr. Matzuk and his research team have used high-throughput platforms in the CDD to identify a promising male contraceptive that targets testes and provides a complete and reversible effect without affecting mating behavior in male mice. The CDD also offers these platforms to all member laboratories for studying diverse research topics and is hence a great asset for the entire BCM community.
In spite of Dr. Matzuk’s busy schedule, he strives to maintain an open-door policy, allowing mentees to discuss research with him freely. In addition, “Martin enjoys doing experiments so much that you can still find him at the bench", says Dr. Jia Peng, a post-doc in the Matzuk lab. “He has always been a true scientist.”
(Written for Baylor College of Medicine Alumni Newsletter)