An interview with Dr Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas

An interview with Dr Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Florida. Following his training, he joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he held the rank of Professor and Director of Women's Health and Reproduction. In 2009, he became a Professor and Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Director of the Center for Women's Health Research, and Codirector of the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Program at Michigan State University. In 2017, he was designated as a University Distinguished Professor. Dr Fazleabas is an expert in female reproduction and his research focuses on critical cellular events during pregnancy. In his distinguished career, he has published over 200 manuscripts, several of which appeared in Biology of Reproduction [1–5]. He has received the 2010 Society for the Study of Reproduction Research Award and the 2016 Society for the Study of Reproduction Distinguished Service Award. He also has served on numerous NIH study sections and as 2009–2010 President for the Society of the Study of Reproduction. We asked him about his outstanding career and commitment to service. When did you first become interested in reproductive biology and why? I first became interested when I was in 8th grade in boarding school. One of the things that I did was work on the farm at the school and one of my responsibilities was to monitor the incubator where chicken eggs were being hatched. I had to candle the eggs by holding them up to the light to see if they were developing properly. I was fascinated by how quickly the blood vessels developed and that in a matter of a few days I could see a beating heart. Seeing these amazing developmental processes really got me interested in science and developmental biology. Eventually, the more I learned more about fertilization and early embryo development and the orchestration of cell lineages, I got hooked on reproductive biology. How did you become a scientist? My dad was a surgeon. This initially got me thinking about science, medical school, and my future career. A career in medicine would have been following in my dad's footsteps, but I really wanted to make sure I was doing something new and different each day, which is what science is all about. In high school and college, the lab-based courses really intrigued me much more than memorizing and regurgitating information. I did not want to be pigeonholed into an area of specialization so I ended up deciding that a career in science would be more fun than going to medical school. What is the most important scientific accomplishment that you think you have made so far? I would say two things. The first stemmed from my postdoctoral training at the University of Florida with Dr Michael Roberts and Dr Fuller Bazer. During that time, we were conducting early work with sheep and pigs on the maternal recognition of pregnancy. Being able to translate that work when I began my own lab into a nonhuman primate model and showing that chorionic gonadotropin from the primate embryo was able to modulate the receptivity of the uterus was very exciting. The second was developing the nonhuman primate model for endometriosis and showing that our induction model phenocopies the disease in women. These two fundamental observations have led us into many exciting directions related to uterine biology and disease-associated infertility that have direct translational relevance to the human condition. Who are the past and current scientists whom you admire and inspired your research? Dr Andy Nalbandov at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. As graduate student in his Animal Sciences 406 class, the thing that struck me during his lectures is that he emphasized that in science you do not get dependent on a model. Instead, you should first ask the question and then look for the appropriate model to address your scientific question. He had an amazing career because of his intellectual ability to first ask the right questions and then begin to solve them. Dr Michael Roberts and Dr Fuller Bazer had a significant impact on my career. They provided a great training environment at the University of Florida and taught me to be a vigorous and careful scientist, to build and develop a lab where collegiality was emphasized, and to think both deeply and broadly about a subject area, and to have fun. Dr Donald Barron who was the guiding hand of the reproductive biology program at the University of Florida when I was a postdoc there. He was an amazing individual that was instrumental in making everyone think about the fundamental aspects of biology. His words when I was leaving to begin my first faculty position have had a profound impact on me and my career even to this day. He told me that as scientists we are really privileged; we are paid to go fishing every day. We can pursue our careers to the fullest extent with limited interference and for the most part do what interests us most. There are very few jobs that allow this type of freedom. He had a deep passion for young people and making sure their careers flourished. What do you consider the greatest breakthroughs in the field of reproductive biology and why? There are so many great breakthroughs that it is hard to choose, but for me given my research interests, I would say everything we do in infertility research. Before first test tube baby was born, 70% of couples that we can help today could not have children. In 2010, Dr Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on human in vitro fertilization. Dr Edwards was originally trained as an animal scientist. Most things we know about and use in infertility research had their beginnings in studies related to the reproductive system of domestic animals. Several breakthroughs with sperm cryopreservation, sperm extenders, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis have beginnings in animal reproduction and were originally done to improve the economic wellbeing of the American farmer. We also have had great advances in immunology. We now understand how important the immune system is in terms of maintaining and protecting the developing embryo in utero. But more and more we are also beginning to understand that aberrations in the immune system also contribute to diseases like pre-eclampsia and endometriosis. You served as President of the SSR and on numerous other SSR committees. Due to your outstanding service, you received the Distinguished Service Award from SSR. Why do you think scientific service is valuable? My belief that service itself is valuable goes back to upbringing. My parents instilled in me from a very young age that when you are more fortunate than others, you have to give back. Being of service to the community and fellow human beings is an important aspect of being an individual. This upbringing has carried over into my career. Being able to serve the scientific community that nourishes and sustains you is important. We have to articulate what we believe in and make sure these issues are spoken about in a manner that any person can understand why it is important to have reproductive rights. From the standpoint of training the next generation and sustaining the discipline, service is important. If you are not part of that community and not engaged, it is difficult to sustain yourself because the community can do so much better than the individual. Being able to serve the community and the discipline is important to sustain ones chosen career. For me, this means being involved in advocacy for reproductive rights and training the next generation of scientists. What do you see as the future for research in reproductive biology? I worry about this the most. It goes back to advocacy. Much of what we do benefits a lot of people and it is a “feel good” thing to conduct research that benefits women's health. However, we are in a discipline that does not get a lot of publicity. Reproduction is not a topic people feel comfortable talking about. Although reproductive disorders impact the lives of many individuals in so many different ways, to be blunt they are not something that kill people for the most part. I think we need to convince our legislatures and the community at large to advocate for us. If you think about breast and ovarian cancer research, you have powerful advocacy groups such as the Susan Komen and Gilda Radner Foundations that make sure the diseases they care about get the significant publicity they deserve and have people get behind it and support the research that is necessary to find cures. We have never had that opportunity for infertility and other reproductive pathologies. We need advocacy groups to convince the legislature of the importance of reproductive biology research and the overall benefit it has for human and animal health. Without such advocacy, we will continue to have limited funding despite the opportunities to make major breakthroughs. What advice do you have for students and new investigators entering the field? This is a discipline that will train you to do pretty much anything you want. If you are interested in biology, the reproductive system is unique and can be used as tool to dissect out so many different processes. If you look at big picture, it is brighter than just looking at reproductive biology alone. Use this as opportunity or springboard to understand fundamentals of cell and developmental biology. From that standpoint, reproductive science offers more than any other field. Would you enter this career again? Is this a career you would suggest for scientists today? Without a doubt! I am still fascinated by the reproductive process and all its intricacies, and I have been fortunate to be successful in this field. There is not a single time in my career that I wished I had done something else. For my trainees, I am cautious and try to be as encouraging as possible and emphasize that studying reproductive biology provides them with a unique skill set. The trainees are developing tools, thinking about processes, and learning methods that could hold them in good stead in the future no matter what they do after they complete their training. References 1. Afshar Y, Hastings J, Roqueiro D, Jeong JW, Giudice LC, Fazleabas AT. Changes in eutopic endometrial gene expression during the progression of experimental endometriosis in the baboon, papio anubis. Biol Reprod  2013; 88: 44. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  2. Cameo P, Szmidt M, Strakova Z, Mavrogianis P, Sharpe-Timms KL, Fazleabas AT. Decidualization regulates the expression of the endometrial chorionic gonadotropin receptor in the primate. Biol Reprod  2006; 75: 681– 689. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  3. Hood BL, Liu B, Alkhas A, Shoji Y, Challa R, Wang G, Ferguson S, Oliver J, Mitchell D, Bateman NW, Zahn CM, Hamilton CA et al.   Proteomics of the human endometrial glandular epithelium and stroma from the proliferative and secretory phases of the menstrual Cycle. Biol Reprod  2015; 92: 106. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  4. Srisuparp S, Strakova Z, Brudney A, Mukherjee S, Reierstad S, Hunzicker-Dunn M, Fazleabas AT. Signal transduction pathways activated by chorionic gonadotropin in the primate endometrial epithelial cells. Biol Reprod  2003; 68: 457– 464. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  5. Wang C, Mavrogianis PA, Fazleabas AT. Endometriosis is associated with progesterone resistance in the baboon (Papio anubis) oviduct: evidence based on the localization of oviductal glycoprotein 1 (OVGP1). Biol Reprod  2009; 80: 272– 278. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for the Study of Reproduction. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biology of Reproduction Oxford University Press

An interview with Dr Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for the Study of Reproduction. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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0006-3363
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10.1093/biolre/iox179
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Abstract

View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Florida. Following his training, he joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he held the rank of Professor and Director of Women's Health and Reproduction. In 2009, he became a Professor and Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Director of the Center for Women's Health Research, and Codirector of the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Program at Michigan State University. In 2017, he was designated as a University Distinguished Professor. Dr Fazleabas is an expert in female reproduction and his research focuses on critical cellular events during pregnancy. In his distinguished career, he has published over 200 manuscripts, several of which appeared in Biology of Reproduction [1–5]. He has received the 2010 Society for the Study of Reproduction Research Award and the 2016 Society for the Study of Reproduction Distinguished Service Award. He also has served on numerous NIH study sections and as 2009–2010 President for the Society of the Study of Reproduction. We asked him about his outstanding career and commitment to service. When did you first become interested in reproductive biology and why? I first became interested when I was in 8th grade in boarding school. One of the things that I did was work on the farm at the school and one of my responsibilities was to monitor the incubator where chicken eggs were being hatched. I had to candle the eggs by holding them up to the light to see if they were developing properly. I was fascinated by how quickly the blood vessels developed and that in a matter of a few days I could see a beating heart. Seeing these amazing developmental processes really got me interested in science and developmental biology. Eventually, the more I learned more about fertilization and early embryo development and the orchestration of cell lineages, I got hooked on reproductive biology. How did you become a scientist? My dad was a surgeon. This initially got me thinking about science, medical school, and my future career. A career in medicine would have been following in my dad's footsteps, but I really wanted to make sure I was doing something new and different each day, which is what science is all about. In high school and college, the lab-based courses really intrigued me much more than memorizing and regurgitating information. I did not want to be pigeonholed into an area of specialization so I ended up deciding that a career in science would be more fun than going to medical school. What is the most important scientific accomplishment that you think you have made so far? I would say two things. The first stemmed from my postdoctoral training at the University of Florida with Dr Michael Roberts and Dr Fuller Bazer. During that time, we were conducting early work with sheep and pigs on the maternal recognition of pregnancy. Being able to translate that work when I began my own lab into a nonhuman primate model and showing that chorionic gonadotropin from the primate embryo was able to modulate the receptivity of the uterus was very exciting. The second was developing the nonhuman primate model for endometriosis and showing that our induction model phenocopies the disease in women. These two fundamental observations have led us into many exciting directions related to uterine biology and disease-associated infertility that have direct translational relevance to the human condition. Who are the past and current scientists whom you admire and inspired your research? Dr Andy Nalbandov at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. As graduate student in his Animal Sciences 406 class, the thing that struck me during his lectures is that he emphasized that in science you do not get dependent on a model. Instead, you should first ask the question and then look for the appropriate model to address your scientific question. He had an amazing career because of his intellectual ability to first ask the right questions and then begin to solve them. Dr Michael Roberts and Dr Fuller Bazer had a significant impact on my career. They provided a great training environment at the University of Florida and taught me to be a vigorous and careful scientist, to build and develop a lab where collegiality was emphasized, and to think both deeply and broadly about a subject area, and to have fun. Dr Donald Barron who was the guiding hand of the reproductive biology program at the University of Florida when I was a postdoc there. He was an amazing individual that was instrumental in making everyone think about the fundamental aspects of biology. His words when I was leaving to begin my first faculty position have had a profound impact on me and my career even to this day. He told me that as scientists we are really privileged; we are paid to go fishing every day. We can pursue our careers to the fullest extent with limited interference and for the most part do what interests us most. There are very few jobs that allow this type of freedom. He had a deep passion for young people and making sure their careers flourished. What do you consider the greatest breakthroughs in the field of reproductive biology and why? There are so many great breakthroughs that it is hard to choose, but for me given my research interests, I would say everything we do in infertility research. Before first test tube baby was born, 70% of couples that we can help today could not have children. In 2010, Dr Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on human in vitro fertilization. Dr Edwards was originally trained as an animal scientist. Most things we know about and use in infertility research had their beginnings in studies related to the reproductive system of domestic animals. Several breakthroughs with sperm cryopreservation, sperm extenders, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis have beginnings in animal reproduction and were originally done to improve the economic wellbeing of the American farmer. We also have had great advances in immunology. We now understand how important the immune system is in terms of maintaining and protecting the developing embryo in utero. But more and more we are also beginning to understand that aberrations in the immune system also contribute to diseases like pre-eclampsia and endometriosis. You served as President of the SSR and on numerous other SSR committees. Due to your outstanding service, you received the Distinguished Service Award from SSR. Why do you think scientific service is valuable? My belief that service itself is valuable goes back to upbringing. My parents instilled in me from a very young age that when you are more fortunate than others, you have to give back. Being of service to the community and fellow human beings is an important aspect of being an individual. This upbringing has carried over into my career. Being able to serve the scientific community that nourishes and sustains you is important. We have to articulate what we believe in and make sure these issues are spoken about in a manner that any person can understand why it is important to have reproductive rights. From the standpoint of training the next generation and sustaining the discipline, service is important. If you are not part of that community and not engaged, it is difficult to sustain yourself because the community can do so much better than the individual. Being able to serve the community and the discipline is important to sustain ones chosen career. For me, this means being involved in advocacy for reproductive rights and training the next generation of scientists. What do you see as the future for research in reproductive biology? I worry about this the most. It goes back to advocacy. Much of what we do benefits a lot of people and it is a “feel good” thing to conduct research that benefits women's health. However, we are in a discipline that does not get a lot of publicity. Reproduction is not a topic people feel comfortable talking about. Although reproductive disorders impact the lives of many individuals in so many different ways, to be blunt they are not something that kill people for the most part. I think we need to convince our legislatures and the community at large to advocate for us. If you think about breast and ovarian cancer research, you have powerful advocacy groups such as the Susan Komen and Gilda Radner Foundations that make sure the diseases they care about get the significant publicity they deserve and have people get behind it and support the research that is necessary to find cures. We have never had that opportunity for infertility and other reproductive pathologies. We need advocacy groups to convince the legislature of the importance of reproductive biology research and the overall benefit it has for human and animal health. Without such advocacy, we will continue to have limited funding despite the opportunities to make major breakthroughs. What advice do you have for students and new investigators entering the field? This is a discipline that will train you to do pretty much anything you want. If you are interested in biology, the reproductive system is unique and can be used as tool to dissect out so many different processes. If you look at big picture, it is brighter than just looking at reproductive biology alone. Use this as opportunity or springboard to understand fundamentals of cell and developmental biology. From that standpoint, reproductive science offers more than any other field. Would you enter this career again? Is this a career you would suggest for scientists today? Without a doubt! I am still fascinated by the reproductive process and all its intricacies, and I have been fortunate to be successful in this field. There is not a single time in my career that I wished I had done something else. For my trainees, I am cautious and try to be as encouraging as possible and emphasize that studying reproductive biology provides them with a unique skill set. The trainees are developing tools, thinking about processes, and learning methods that could hold them in good stead in the future no matter what they do after they complete their training. References 1. Afshar Y, Hastings J, Roqueiro D, Jeong JW, Giudice LC, Fazleabas AT. Changes in eutopic endometrial gene expression during the progression of experimental endometriosis in the baboon, papio anubis. Biol Reprod  2013; 88: 44. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  2. Cameo P, Szmidt M, Strakova Z, Mavrogianis P, Sharpe-Timms KL, Fazleabas AT. Decidualization regulates the expression of the endometrial chorionic gonadotropin receptor in the primate. Biol Reprod  2006; 75: 681– 689. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  3. Hood BL, Liu B, Alkhas A, Shoji Y, Challa R, Wang G, Ferguson S, Oliver J, Mitchell D, Bateman NW, Zahn CM, Hamilton CA et al.   Proteomics of the human endometrial glandular epithelium and stroma from the proliferative and secretory phases of the menstrual Cycle. Biol Reprod  2015; 92: 106. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  4. Srisuparp S, Strakova Z, Brudney A, Mukherjee S, Reierstad S, Hunzicker-Dunn M, Fazleabas AT. Signal transduction pathways activated by chorionic gonadotropin in the primate endometrial epithelial cells. Biol Reprod  2003; 68: 457– 464. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  5. Wang C, Mavrogianis PA, Fazleabas AT. Endometriosis is associated with progesterone resistance in the baboon (Papio anubis) oviduct: evidence based on the localization of oviductal glycoprotein 1 (OVGP1). Biol Reprod  2009; 80: 272– 278. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for the Study of Reproduction. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

Biology of ReproductionOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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