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junhyong-kim-and-kathleen-oneill
With the National Institutes of Health's grant, Junhyong Kim (left) and Kathleen O'Neill (right) will create a molecular model of the female reproductive system.

Two Penn professors have been awarded a $4.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund the creation of the Penn Center for Multi-scale Molecular Mapping of the Female Reproductive System.

Patricia M. Williams Term Professor of biology Junhyong Kim and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Kathleen O'Neill recently received a Human BioMolecular Atlas Program grant. The four-year grant will allow them to create a molecular model of the female reproductive system. 

The goal of the NIH Human BioMolecular Atlas Program is to develop a global platform to map healthy cells in the human body, intended to support further research into the relationship between cells and the detection of changes that may signal disease. Through research awards, recipients research cell organization, develop new tools and techniques to construct cell maps, and build an atlas of HuBMAP maps.

Together, Kim and O’Neill are leading a multi-disciplinary team to build a comprehensive women’s health resource documenting the molecular characteristics of individual cells in the female reproductive system.

Organs in the female reproductive system — which contains the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries — are critical for pregnancy, fetal development and childbirth. They are also central to numerous disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome and gynecologic cancers, according to a Department of Biology press release.

Two of the most common female reproductive disorders in women are fibroids, a benign pelvic tumor, and endometriosis, in which tissue normally lining the uterus grows outside the uterus. Combined, they are estimated to impact up to 70% of women but often go undiagnosed or are diagnosed with delay, according to a report published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

In addition to receiving the grant from the NIH, Kim and O’Neill will receive support from the School of Arts and Sciences, Perelman School of Medicine, and the Center for Research on Reproduction and Women’s Health.

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