Research Looks at Link Between Circadian Rhythms and Reproductive Health

A $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help Kent State University assistant professor further his research on the topic over a span of five years.

Kent State University Assistant Professor Richard Piet, Ph.D., has received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to aid in his ongoing neuroendocrinology research. 

Piet, who is in the Department of Biological Sciences, studies the effects of light on the brain, specifically how circadian rhythms – our internal body clock that registers to daylight and darkness over a 24-hour cycle and controls daily rhythms in physiology and behaviors – play a role in the release of various hormones from the hypothalamus area of the brain, which in turn play a vital role in fertility. 

The research employs animal models to understand how the circadian clock times hormone release to control ovulation and menstruation cycles. 

The research will be funded over five years.  

“Hopefully, this research will comprise a body of knowledge for clinicians to use in the future to develop potential new therapies and new ways to treat women who suffer from infertility,” Piet said.  

Piet, who came to Kent State in 2019, is a native of Bordeaux, France, and was one of the first researchers recruited to the university by Michael Lehman, Ph.D., after he became director of Kent State’s Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI). 

Michael Lehman, Ph.D., director of the Kent State Brain Health Research Institute

Piet and Lehman had previously met in New Zealand, where Piet was serving as a post-doc researcher at the Centre for Neuroendocrinology at the University of Otago in Dunedin. 

Lehman said he knew that Piet would be a good fit for the BHRI, in part because his research is closely related to Lehman’s and two other Kent State researchers in biological sciences, Professor Lique Coolen, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Aleisha Moore, Ph.D. 

Lique Coolen

“Assembling collaborative groups of scientists to tackle big questions in brain research is one of the things we had hoped to achieve as part of BHRI,” Lehman said. “Richard, Aleisha, Lique and I are an excellent example of that, and together we form an expert core that can bring distinct types of expertise and ideas to a single research question. That, to me, exemplifies the power of the collaborative approach.” 

Lehman is a co-investigator on the grant.  

“Like Dr. Piet, we are fundamentally interested in how the brain controls reproduction and the role that certain neurons play in that. The grant will support work that will help us understand the role of the brain’s circadian clock in controlling the hormone surge that is the major trigger for successful ovulation in humans and animals,” Lehman said. “It will most certainly have relevance to fertility disorders where patients are having difficulty conceiving.” 

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Aleisha Moore

Doug Delahanty, vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs, said success with large-scale, collaborative grants such as these underscore the strength of Kent State’s research institutes at supporting faculty success.

Image of Douglas L. Delahanty

 “We are very excited about the great potential of this research to not only advance our understanding of mammalian fertility but to provide our students with opportunities to engage in meaningful research experiences,” Delahanty said. 

Lehman said he was proud that the BHRI could contribute to Kent State’s elevation in status as an R1 institution.  

“It fittingly reflects the growth of our research in neuroendocrinology and other areas of neuroscience, as well as the international reputation and visibility we have achieved in neuroendocrinology and other areas of brain research,” he said. 

Kent State holds the esteemed distinction of being one of only five institutions in Ohio to be recognized as an R1 top-tier research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. 



POSTED: Tuesday, May 2, 2023 02:32 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 31, 2023 03:07 PM
Lisa Abraham