Beckman Fellow 2014-15

Kathryn Clancy


Clancy imageEcological determinants of luteal reproductive function

Miscarriage is a normal and natural component of reproductive function in women. While half of miscarriages result from chromosomal abnormalities in a fetus that would not make it to term, we can explain few of the reasons for the remaining, non-chromosomal losses. We do know that the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase) is when the critical events of early pregnancy occur, and that reproductive functioning during this phase can be suppressed when women experience energetic or immunological stress. This knowledge frames the current research project undertaken by Professor Clancy.

During her Center appointment, Professor Clancy will conduct field research among women at the Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site in rural Poland, as part of a longitudinal, ecological study of the endometrium in a non-industrialized population. The project is the first-ever study of women’s systemic reproductive functioning over an entire menstrual cycle: it includes demography, anthropometry, psychometrics, daily urine collection for reproductive hormones and stress biomarkers, and endometrial ultrasounds. Women in the sample population are under some energetic constraint (e.g., moderate physical activity during the harvest season, potential systemic inflammation resulting from the farm environment), which will make it easier to document variations in their environment and responses.

The results from Professor Clancy’s early work have led to new insights into how bodies allocate energy to ovarian and uterine processes. For this project, Professor Clancy aims to (a) characterize the relationship between ovarian and endometrial function among women in a moderately constrained environment, (b) model the associations between biomarkers of ecological stressors and ovarian and endometrial function, and (c) advance our understanding of how developmental milestones correlate with adult reproductive function.