NIH – Fertility Status as a Marker for Overall Health (R01, R21)

December 27, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The following description was taken from the R01 version of this FOA:

NICHD has significant interest in understanding the potential link(s) between fertility status and overall health. The reciprocal relationship between fertility status and overall health was a cross-cutting theme in the 2011 NICHD White Paper on Reproduction (, and the 2014 National Public Health Action Plan of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that a clear need exists to identify public health priorities regarding infertility and its effect on health. In April 2016, the NICHD and CDC sponsored “Fertility Status and Overall Health (FSOH)”, a workshop that brought together experts in cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic function, epidemiology, and reproductive health to obtain information about the current state of the science, including critical gaps in the link between fertility status and overall health, to identify the potential conceptual or technical barriers limiting progress in the field and what is needed to overcome them, and to determine the highest priorities to move the field forward.  This FOA and the companion R21 FOA promote the primary research goals identified in that workshop. These FOAs focus on fertility as a marker for overall health and therefore applications that look at the effects of a disease or disorder on fertility are outside the scope of this program.

Purpose/Research Objectives

The purpose of this FOA is to support research that explores the premise that fertility status can be a marker for overall health. It is clear that chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity can impair fertility, however less is known about the extent to which fertility status can impact or act as a marker for overall health.  Data suggest that infertility is not necessarily a unique disease of the reproductive axis, but is often physiologically or genetically linked with other diseases and conditions.  Recent epidemiologic studies demonstrate links between fertility status in both males and females and various somatic diseases and disorders.  Taken together, these data strongly suggest that fertility status can be a window into overall health.  Validation of this premise would provide a valuable opportunity to affect future health during fertility evaluation, allowing early intervention in serious, chronic diseases.  With an increase in the number of couples seeking infertility treatment, there is increased potential to reach people during reproductive years, when they are both highly motivated to protect their future health and young enough to harbor earlier, more responsive  stages of disease.

This FOA encourages research to bolster evidence of fertility status as a marker for overall health in cases where the epidemiologic data is not already solid, and to explore the mechanistic links between fertility status and a later, known adverse health outcome. Ultimately, such efforts could inform the counseling and interdisciplinary clinical care of infertility patients at higher risk for other diseases or disorders.

Specific Areas of Research Interest:

Specific areas of research could include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

  • Development of new animal models, including non-human primates, which can allow identification of biomarkers for infertility and mechanistic studies that link infertility with other health conditions
  • Studies using animal models already generated by the NIH Knock Out Mouse Production and Phenotyping (KOMP2)
  • Bioinformatic studies of the available data on the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium website ( and systems biology approaches to identify pathways that are involved in both reproduction and somatic diseases and disorders
  • Epidemiological studies of fertility status as a marker for various health outcomes, especially to resolve controversies in the literature
  • Studies of existing cohorts to identify individuals with infertility and/or other fecundity impairments, such as conception delays and pregnancy loss, and their interaction with health across the lifespan (recruitment of new study populations is not appropriate for this FOA)
  • Identification of cases where infertility and its co-morbid condition(s) are particularly severe, which could improve the chances of finding mechanistic links
  • Exploration of mechanistic links between fertility status and overall health

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities