Conversations in Science Series
A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Sonderegger Science Center (Click here for parking information)
1000 Edgewood College Drive Madison, Wisconsin

Professor David Abbott
Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology and
Wisconsin National Primate Research Center

“Babies, Testosterone, Type 2 Diabetes and Infertility”

The Conversations in Science series brings together UW-Madison science researchers and Dane County science teachers. Designed to stimulate discussion between scientists and science educators at all levels, these conversations connect high-, middle-, and elementary school classrooms with the University's cutting-edge research. Questions and ideas are freely exchanged between expert and an audience of K-12 educators.


Testosterone is a well-known male hormone crucial in the differentiation and maintenance of male characteristics. In excess in females, however, testosterone has pervasive effects that go well beyond masculinization. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a testosterone excess disorder found in about 10% of women in their reproductive years. PCOS is heritable, increases a woman’s risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and infertility, but its origins in humans are unknown. This presentation will examine a potential fetal origin for PCOS that was discovered when female monkeys were exposed to fetal male levels of testosterone before birth. As adults, testosterone-exposed female monkeys exhibit both reproductive and metabolic pathophysiology found in women with PCOS, and as infants, such monkeys provide tell-tale antecedents of the adult disorder. Understanding the developmental origins of PCOS provides the potential for clinical intervention before adulthood to prevent expression of the syndrome’s multiple signs and symptoms.


Dr. Abbott is Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) and at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. His research is primarily in the area of women’s reproductive health. He earned his PhD in zoology in 1979 from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, based upon his biomedical studies of social dominance-regulated fertility at the Medical Research Council’s Reproductive Biology Unit. His first postdoc was courtesy of an interdepartmental Training Program in Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 1979-1981, before took up a position in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Cambridge in England examining behaviorally-mediated neuroendocrine mechanisms regulating female reproduction. His advances in this area led to his appointment as Unit Head for Behavioral Physiology at the Institute of Zoology, based at the Royal Zoological Society of London (London Zoo) in 1984. He then returned to the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1990 as Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn to lead a joint Primate Center-Ob/Gyn initiative examining fetal origins of PCOS, becoming Professor of Ob/Gyn in 1998. Dr. Abbott has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, has served as principal investigator for a number of basic science studies, and his research has been funded by the British Medical Research Council, the National Institutes of Health, and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Click here to visit Professor Abbott’s webpage.

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