(July 2, 2012) -- In collaboration with scholars at the University of Hawaii at Honolulu and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, researchers from The University of Texas at San Antonio Department of Biology have demonstrated in the laboratory for the first time that primary epigenetic mutations are corrected in the germ (sperm and egg) cells of mice.
The findings are critical because they confirm that environmental factors such as those involved in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization are likely to induce epimutations, but that these defects are subsequently corrected in the germ cells of the individuals produced by ART and so are not transmitted to subsequent generations.
The epigenome is the genetic programming that is responsible for gene expression, which ultimately decides one's outward appearance. Epimutations typically lead to changes in appearance or cellular function when they disrupt the normal function of one or more genes in a cell.
Over six years, UTSA scholar John McCarrey, the Robert and Helen Kleberg Distinguished Chair in Cellular and Molecular Biology, and two of his graduate students, Eric de Waal and Puraskar Ingale, studied three genes in mice artificially derived through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). They observed that half of these mice exhibited epigenetic mutations in their somatic cells.
Previous anecdotal observations had suggested that ICSI-derived mice do not pass on epimutations to their naturally conceived offspring. McCarrey and his collaborators wanted to find definitive evidence confirming this notion.
When the researchers allowed ICSI-derived mice that had epimutations in their somatic cells to breed naturally, they observed that the offspring had no epimuations. Their findings demonstrate that the epigenomes of the parent mice were reprogrammed at some point during the natural reproduction process.
Taken together, the science suggests that ART methods can cause epigenetic defects (epimutations) in the individuals produced by this method, but that if these individuals then reproduce naturally, their offspring will not display similar defects.
"The epigenome is made up of reversible modifications of genetic information, and these modifications are highly susceptible to environmental influences," said McCarrey. "There are more than 4 million humans alive today who were conceived by various forms of ART, and these individuals are at risk of having incurred epimutations during the ART process. The good news is that our data suggest that if these individuals reproduce naturally, their children are not likely to inherit these epigenetic defects."
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are becoming increasingly common worldwide and now account for two to three percent of human births. McCarrey and his team are continuing their research in an attempt to optimize ART methods so as to minimize the occurrence of epimutations in these individuals.
The annual Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) 100K Venture Competition and Exposition will be held on the Main Campus on Dec. 1. Twenty-eight teams from across the university will exhibit their project; six teams will compete for a prize pool of more than $100,000 in funding to launch their new venture / company. More than 650 students have participated in launching new technology ventures.
Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering (BSE 2.102), Main Campus
This concert features 50 community children performing music in the UTSA Downtown String Project Winter Concert. The children, led by UTSA music students studying to be music teachers, will join together in playing the Theme from Batman at their concert. The Batman of San Antonio, a local celebrity figure, will make an appearance at the concert. This event is free.
Buena Vista Theatre, Downtown Campus
Graduate student uses storytelling to highlight important issues facing children
As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.
At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.
Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.
With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.
Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.
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