[Ahmad Khalil, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine] and colleagues have been working to understand genetic mechanisms behind male infertility.
His work focuses on long strands of genetic material with elusive functions. The strands, called “long non-coding RNAs” or “lncRNAs” don’t seem to encode proteins, but have been implicated in everything from cancer to brain function. Many are located in the testes, suggesting they could also play a role in fertility.
A team of seven researchers, led by Khalil, collected and measured lncRNA levels during the process of cellular differentiation that leads to sperm production [in mice]. They found that specific lncRNAs are associated with each stage of sperm development.
“We have demonstrated for the first time that new types of genes, lncRNAs, are important for male fertility,” Khalil said. “This is a step closer to uncovering new genetic causes of infertility.”
“Our hope is that lncRNAs can be used in future RNA-based therapeutic approaches,” Khalil said.
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