Research Interests

  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Ovarian Biology
  • Gonadal Sex Determination
  • Sex Hormones
  • Fertility

Biography

  • Director of Basic and Translational Research, Fertility and Hormone Preservation and Restoration Program, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • Gesualdo Family Research Scholar, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
  • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Monica Laronda, PhD, has developed a strong research interest in basic reproductive biology and endocrinology to feed the underlying knowledge required to develop treatments that can protect or restore fertility and hormone function. The Laronda Laboratory strives to understand how the ovarian niche maintains and promotes oocyte development, to use this information to generate in vitro models and implantable bioprosthetic ovaries as a regenerative means to support endocrine function and egg production in patients with primary ovarian insufficiency, and to engineer endocrine organs that support sex hormone production.

Education and Background

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine 2016
  • PhD, Northwestern University 2011

Research Highlights

DEVELOPING REGENERATIVE MEDICINE TOOLS, INCLUDING 3D PRINTED SCAFFOLDS

This research initiated puberty in ovariectomized mice with a decellularized ovary scaffold and primary granulosa cells. The scaffold environment also supported folliculogenesis, or oocyte growth.(1) Additional research investigated several architectural designs to determine a functional microenvironment for murine follicles [potential egg cells (oocytes) with hormone-producing cells] to differentiate and produce eggs in vitro and as an implant. This bioprosthetic ovary restored folliculogenesis, hormone cyclicity, fertility, and lactation in a mouse whose ovaries were removed. This scaffold is scalable, as it is made with a 3D printer and gelatin. Therefore, this 3D-printed bioprosthetic ovary is poised for translation into larger animal models and clinical applications and has received significant attention by news outlets and on social media, with features in 255 news stories including The Washington Post, NPR, Scientific American, and TIME, suggesting the keen interest the public has in this work.(2)

(1)Laronda MM, Jakus, AE, Whelan KA, Wertheim JA, Shah RN, Woodruff TK. Initiation of puberty in mice following decellularized ovary scaffold transplant. Biomaterials. 2015, 50, 20-29. PMCID: PMC4350019

(2)Laronda MM, Rutz AL, Xiao S, Whelan KA, Duncan FE, Roth EW, Woodruff TK., Shah RN. A 3D printed bioprosthetic ovary restores function in sterilized mice. Nature Communications. 2017; 8, 15261-15271 PMCID: PMC5440811

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN GONADAL SEX DETERMINATION AND GENERATING SEX HORMONE-PRODUCING CELLS FROM INDUCED PLURIPOTENT STEM CELLS

This research project investigates human gonadal sex determination using iPSCs created from donated research specimens from patients with unique genetic variants.(3) The additional goal of this research is to create the sex hormone producing cells of the testis and ovary. This research supports the efforts of restoring hormone function in patients with personalized transplants.

(3)Schwartz GB, Kubo H, Laronda MM. Generation of two human induced pluripotent stem cell lines from a patient with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome with a hemizygous single nucleotide variant in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. Stem Cell Research. 2021, 55, 102441 PMID: 34233262

DEVELOPMENT OF METHODS FOR PRESERVING AND SUPPORTING HUMAN EGG DEVELOPMENT

Dr. Laronda trained with Professor Teresa Woodruff who founded the Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University. This consortium highlighted the need to offer fertility preservation to children and adolescents who undergo life-saving but sterilizing treatments for cancer or other diseases. Ongoing research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago includes collaborative groups with a focus to develop modalities in preserving and restoring female fertility by utilizing human ovarian tissue pieces processed for cryopreservation. Current standard preservation procedures include removing the cortical region of one ovary, where the follicle reserve (bank of potential eggs) resides. This tissue can be preserved for future use in restoring fertility through transplantation. The development of fundamental guidelines for transporting ovarian tissue, identifying cortical strip tissue that contained follicles without disrupting their environment, and culturing these follicles to support ex vivo folliculogenesis has expanded the ability of Lurie Children’s to support fertility preservation for our own patients and patients across the country.(4) Ongoing research continues to improve ovarian tissue processing, in vitro folliculogenesis(5), and surgical techniques for removing the tissue prior to cryopreservation.(6) This research continues to improve the understanding of fundamental ovarian biology across the pubertal transition and improves processes and techniques for preserving and restoring ovarian function in our patients.

(4)Laronda MM, Duncan FE, Hornick JE, Pahnke J, Whelan KA, Shea LD, Woodruff TK. Alginate encapsulation supports the growth and differentiation of human primordial follicles within ovarian cortical tissue. JARG. 2014; 31, 1013-1028. PMCID: PMC4130945. Relative Citation Ratio (as of March 25, 2021) 3.64

(5)Jakus AE, Laronda MM, Rashedi AE, Robinson CM, Lee C, Jordan SW, Orwig KE, Woodruff TK, Shah RN. "Tissue Papers" from Organ-Specific Decellularized Extracellular Matrices. Advanced Functional Materials. 2017; 245 1-14. PMCID: PMC5665058. Relative Citation Ratio (as of March 25, 2021) 4.36

(6)Rowell EE, Corkum KS, Even KA, Laronda MM. Ovarian tissue health after laparoscopic unilateral oophorectomy: A porcine model for establishing optimized fertility preservation techniques in children. J Pediatric Surgery. 2020; S0022-3468 (19) 30899-1. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2019.12.014 PMID: 31983401

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