Darryl Russell of the University of Adelaide in Australia is seeking safer contraceptives that block ovulation without altering hormone levels and cause fewer side effects using an automated in-vitro screening platform that measures cell adhesion in the cumulus-oocyte complex, which is required to release the oocyte from the ovary. In Phase I, they built the screening platform by isolating cumulus-oocyte complexes from mice, culturing them in fibronectin-coated multi-well plates, and quantifying adhesion in a 96-well plate format using an automated assay. In a first run, they screened a library of 129 FDA-approved chemical compounds over four months and identified seven candidate contraceptives with known protein targets, one of which showed a strong reduction in ovulation when tested in mice. In Phase II, they will study whether one of the main target proteins identified in their first screen is a key target for blocking ovulation. They will also test whether the other candidates from their first screen can block ovulation in mice and screen larger and more diverse libraries to identify new candidate contraceptives and prioritize them for further drug development and testing.
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