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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Andrology, Embryology, Genomic Endocrinology, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Reproductive Genomics’ Category


Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

When a baby is born through its mother’s birth canal, it is bathed in a soup of microbes. Those born by caesarean section (C-section) miss out on this bacterial baptism. The differences in microbe exposure at birth and later health could be caused by other factors, such as whether a mother takes antibiotics during her surgery, and whether a baby is breastfed or has a genetic predisposition to obesity. So, the researchers are sharply split on whether or not this missing of bacterial exposure increases the risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and asthma.

 

Researchers found that babies delivered surgically harboured different collections of bacteria than did those born vaginally. C-section babies, which comprise more than 30% of births in the United States, are also more prone to obesity and immune diseases such as diabetes. Experiments show that mice born by C-section are more prone to obesity and have impaired immune systems. There are fewer factors that could account for these differences in the rodents, which can be studied in controlled conditions, than in people.

 

A wave of clinical trials now under way could help to settle the question — and feed into the debate over whether seeding babies born by C-section with their mother’s vaginal bacteria is beneficial or potentially harmful. Several groups of researchers will be swabbing hundreds of C-section babies with their mother’s microbes, while comparing them to a control group. Each team plans to monitor its study participants over several years in the hope of learning more about how the collection of microbes in their bodies might influence weight, allergy risk and other factors.

 

But some scientists say that the trials could expose C-section babies to infection, or encourage mothers to try do-it-yourself swabbing, without much evidence that there is a benefit or risk. Moreover, there is no evidence that differing exposure to vaginal microbes at birth can help explain variation in people’s health over time. Presently the whole concept is in very much a state of uncertainty.

 

Researchers in near future will compare swabbed C-section babies with a placebo group and with infants delivered vaginally. They confirmed that their protocols will not increase the risk of infection for C-section babies. Scientists will also rigorously screen mothers participating in these trials for microbes such as HIV and group B streptococcus — a common vaginal bacterium that causes respiratory problems in newborns.

 

References:

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02348-3?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31431742

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20566857

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25452656

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22939691

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24030708

 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/02/22/babys-microbiome-changing-due-to-caesarean-birth-and-formula-feeding/

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scPopCorn: A New Computational Method for Subpopulation Detection and their Comparative Analysis Across Single-Cell Experiments

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Present day technological advances have facilitated unprecedented opportunities for studying biological systems at single-cell level resolution. For example, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) enables the measurement of transcriptomic information of thousands of individual cells in one experiment. Analyses of such data provide information that was not accessible using bulk sequencing, which can only assess average properties of cell populations. Single-cell measurements, however, can capture the heterogeneity of a population of cells. In particular, single-cell studies allow for the identification of novel cell types, states, and dynamics.

 

One of the most prominent uses of the scRNA-seq technology is the identification of subpopulations of cells present in a sample and comparing such subpopulations across samples. Such information is crucial for understanding the heterogeneity of cells in a sample and for comparative analysis of samples from different conditions, tissues, and species. A frequently used approach is to cluster every dataset separately, inspect marker genes for each cluster, and compare these clusters in an attempt to determine which cell types were shared between samples. This approach, however, relies on the existence of predefined or clearly identifiable marker genes and their consistent measurement across subpopulations.

 

Although the aligned data can then be clustered to reveal subpopulations and their correspondence, solving the subpopulation-mapping problem by performing global alignment first and clustering second overlooks the original information about subpopulations existing in each experiment. In contrast, an approach addressing this problem directly might represent a more suitable solution. So, keeping this in mind the researchers developed a computational method, single-cell subpopulations comparison (scPopCorn), that allows for comparative analysis of two or more single-cell populations.

 

The performance of scPopCorn was tested in three distinct settings. First, its potential was demonstrated in identifying and aligning subpopulations from single-cell data from human and mouse pancreatic single-cell data. Next, scPopCorn was applied to the task of aligning biological replicates of mouse kidney single-cell data. scPopCorn achieved the best performance over the previously published tools. Finally, it was applied to compare populations of cells from cancer and healthy brain tissues, revealing the relation of neoplastic cells to neural cells and astrocytes. Consequently, as a result of this integrative approach, scPopCorn provides a powerful tool for comparative analysis of single-cell populations.

 

This scPopCorn is basically a computational method for the identification of subpopulations of cells present within individual single-cell experiments and mapping of these subpopulations across these experiments. Different from other approaches, scPopCorn performs the tasks of population identification and mapping simultaneously by optimizing a function that combines both objectives. When applied to complex biological data, scPopCorn outperforms previous methods. However, it should be kept in mind that scPopCorn assumes the input single-cell data to consist of separable subpopulations and it is not designed to perform a comparative analysis of single cell trajectories datasets that do not fulfill this constraint.

 

Several innovations developed in this work contributed to the performance of scPopCorn. First, unifying the above-mentioned tasks into a single problem statement allowed for integrating the signal from different experiments while identifying subpopulations within each experiment. Such an incorporation aids the reduction of biological and experimental noise. The researchers believe that the ideas introduced in scPopCorn not only enabled the design of a highly accurate identification of subpopulations and mapping approach, but can also provide a stepping stone for other tools to interrogate the relationships between single cell experiments.

 

References:

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405471219301887

 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23307706.2017.1397554

 

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/4031383

 

https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-0927-y

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405471216302666

 

 

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Embryo Stem Cells Out of Skin

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Researchers at Hebrew University identified a set of genes able to transform murine skin cells into three cell types such as the embryo itself, the placenta and extraembryonic tissue i.e. umbilical cord which was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Dr. Oren Ram, Institute of Life Science at Hebrew University, Prof. Tommy Kaplan, School of Computer Science and Engineering found a new combination of five genes that once inserted into skin cells, reprogram the cells into each of three early embryonic cell types. Researchers identified that the gene “Eomes” pushes the cell toward placental stem-cell identity and placental development, whereas the “Esrrb” gene arranges fetus stem cells development through the temporary procurement of an extraembryonic stem cell identity.The team used this to examine the molecular forces that oversee cell fate decisions for skin cell reprogramming and the natural process of embryonic development.

Even though this groundbreaking research could provide a path toward creating entire human embryos from human cell skin cells without need for sperm of organs, that is still a long way in the future. However, for now this work can have large implications for modeling embryonic disease and placental dysfunctions in addition to solving infertility problems by creating human embryos in a petri dish.

SOURCE
https://www.jpost.com/OMG/A-baby-from-skin-cells-Israeli-team-makes-embryo-stem-cells-out-of-skin-588531

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Leigh syndrome is one of the hundreds of so-called mitochondrial diseases, which are caused by defects in the mitochondria that produce 90 percent of the body’s energy. These disorders are rare; about 1,000 to 4,000 babies in the United States are born with one every year. But they are devastating and can result in grave impairment of nearly any bodily system. They are largely untreatable, uniformly incurable and very difficult to screen.

 

Leigh syndrome is a terrible disease. It emerges shortly after birth and claims one major organ after another. Movement becomes difficult, and then impossible. A tracheotomy and feeding tube are often necessary by toddlerhood, and as the disease progresses, lungs frequently have to be suctioned manually. Most children with the condition die by the age of 5 or 6.

 

Scientists have devised a procedure called mitochondrial replacement therapy (M.R.T.) that involves transplanting the nucleus of an affected egg (mitochondrial diseases are passed down from the mother’s side) into an unaffected one whose nucleus has been removed. The procedure is sometimes called “three-parent in vitro fertilization”. Mitochondria contain a minuscule amount of DNA, any resulting embryo would have mitochondrial DNA from the donor egg and nuclear DNA from each of its parents.

 

After decades of careful study in cell and animal research M.R.T. is now finally being tested in human clinical trials by doctors in Britain (no births confirmed yet officially). In the United States, however, this procedure is effectively illegal. M.R.T. does not involve altering any genetic code. Defective mitochondria are swapped out for healthy ones.

 

Mitochondrial DNA governs only a handful of basic cellular functions. It is separate from nuclear DNA, which helps determine individual traits like physical appearance, intelligence and personality. That means M.R.T. cannot be used to produce the genetically enhanced “designer babies” and thus should be allowed in humans. But, there is no way to know how safe or effective M.R.T. is until doctors and scientists test it in humans.

 

References:

 

 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/10/07/the-three-parent-technique-to-avoid-mitochondrial-disease-in-embryo/

 

 

 

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Research about marijuana and fertility is limited but some previous studies suggested that it might harm semen quality. Smoking of any type is also known to be a risk factor for male infertility. So, men who have smoked cannabis are expected to have worse measures of fertility but the data from a recent study suggested the opposite. The finding contradicts all conventional knowledge on how weed affects sperm. This may be because previous research typically focused on men with drug abuse history but this present study simply asked men if they had smoked more than two joints in their life.

 

Analysis of 1,143 semen samples from 662 men collected between 2000 and 2017 at the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that those who had smoked weed at some point in their life had a mean sperm concentration of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of ejaculate, while men who avoided marijuana entirely had mean concentrations of 45.4 million/mL. Added to this only 5% of weed smokers had sperm concentrations below the 15 million/mL threshold the World Health Organization has set for a “normal” sperm count, versus 12% of men who never smoked marijuana.

 

The study has some imperfections such as the participants are not necessarily representative of the general population. They were predominantly college educated men with a mean age of 36, and were all seeking treatment at a fertility center. Further research is needed to support the findings. Two possibilities are put forward by the researchers as the reason behind such data. The first is that low levels of marijuana could have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system, the neurotransmitters in the nervous system that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and are known to regulate fertility. The second is that may be weed-smokers are just bigger risk takers and men with higher testosterone levels and thus have better sperm count.

 

But, there’s certainly no medical recommendation to smoke weed as a fertility treatment but this study, at least, suggests that a little marijuana doesn’t hurt and might benefit sperm production in some way. But, the researchers specified that their finding does not necessarily mean that smoking cannabis increases the chances of fatherhood.

 

References:

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30726923

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-02-06/cannabis-smoking-associated-with-higher-sperm-count-study-finds?__twitter_impression=true

 

https://qz.com/1543564/smoking-weed-linked-to-higher-sperm-count-in-a-harvard-study/

 

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2019/02/06/cannabis-smoking-associated-with-higher-sperm-count-study-finds/

 

http://time.com/5520421/smoking-marijuana-sperm-fertility/

 

https://www.health.com/infertility/marijuana-sperm-count

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Changes in Levels of Sex Hormones and N-Terminal Pro–B-Type Natriuretic Peptide as Biomarker for Cardiovascular Diseases

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Considerable differences exist in the prevalence and manifestation of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) and heart failure (HF) between men and women. Premenopausal women have a lower risk of CVD and HF compared with men; however, this risk increases after menopause. Sex hormones, particularly androgens, are associated with CVD risk factors and events and have been postulated to mediate the observed sex differences in CVD.

 

B-type natriuretic peptides (BNPs) are secreted from cardiomyocytes in response to myocardial wall stress. BNP plays an important role in cardiovascular remodelling and volume homeostasis. It exerts numerous cardioprotective effects by promoting vasodilation, natriuresis, and ventricular relaxation and by antagonizing fibrosis and the effects of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Although the physiological role of BNP is cardioprotective, pathologically elevated N-terminal pro–BNP (NT-proBNP) levels are used clinically to indicate left ventricular hypertrophy, dysfunction, and myocardial ischemia. Higher NT-proBNP levels among individuals free of clinical CVD are associated with an increased risk of incident CVD, HF, and cardiovascular mortality.

 

BNP and NT-proBNP levels are higher in women than men in the general population. Several studies have proposed the use of sex- and age-specific reference ranges for BNP and NT-proBNP levels, in which reference limits are higher for women and older individuals. The etiology behind this sex difference has not been fully elucidated, but prior studies have demonstrated an association between sex hormones and NT-proBNP levels. Recent studies measuring endogenous sex hormones have suggested that androgens may play a larger role in BNP regulation by inhibiting its production.

 

Data were collected from a large, multiethnic community-based cohort of individuals free of CVD and HF at baseline to analyze both the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between sex hormones [total testosterone (T), bioavailable T, freeT, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), SHBG, and estradiol] and NT-proBNP, separately for women and men. It was found that a more androgenic pattern of sex hormones was independently associated with lower NT-proBNP levels in cross-sectional analyses in men and postmenopausal women.

 

This association may help explain sex differences in the distribution of NT-proBNP and may contribute to the NP deficiency in men relative to women. In longitudinal analyses, a more androgenic pattern of sex hormones was associated with a greater increase in NT-proBNP levels in both sexes, with a more robust association among women. This relationship may reflect a mechanism for the increased risk of CVD and HF seen in women after menopause.

 

Additional research is needed to further explore whether longitudinal changes in NT-proBNP levels seen in our study are correlated with longitudinal changes in sex hormones. The impact of menopause on changes in NT-proBNP levels over time should also be explored. Furthermore, future studies should aim to determine whether sex hormones directly play a role in biological pathways of BNP synthesis and clearance in a causal fashion. Lastly, the dual role of NTproBNP as both

  • a cardioprotective hormone and
  • a biomarker of CVD and HF, as well as
  • the role of sex hormones in delineating these processes,

should be further explored. This would provide a step toward improved clinical CVD risk stratification and prognostication based on

  • sex hormone and
  • NT-proBNP levels.

 

References:

 

https://www.medpagetoday.com/clinical-connection/cardio-endo/76480?xid=NL_CardioEndoConnection_2018-12-27

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30137406

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22064958

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24036936

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19854731

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Over the past 20 years, studies have shown that girls and possibly boys have been experiencing puberty at progressively younger ages. This is troubling news, as earlier age at puberty has been linked with increased risk of mental illness, breast and ovarian cancer in girls and testicular cancer in boys. Researchers found that daughters of mothers who had higher levels of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in their bodies during pregnancy experienced puberty at younger ages. The same trend was not observed in boys. So, researchers suspected that girls exposed to chemicals commonly found in toothpaste, makeup, soap and other personal care products before birth may hit puberty earlier.

 

Diethyl phthalate is often used as a stabilizer in fragrances and cosmetics. The antimicrobial agent triclosan — which the FDA banned from use in hand soap in 2017 because it was shown to be ineffective — is still used in some toothpastes. Researchers suspected that many chemicals in personal care products can interfere with natural hormones in human bodies, and studies have shown that exposure to these chemicals can alter reproductive development in rats. Chemicals that have been implicated include phthalates, which are often found in scented products like perfumes, soaps and shampoos; parabens, which are used as preservatives in cosmetics; and phenols, which include triclosan.

 

However, few studies have looked at how these chemicals might affect the growth of human children. This present study at UC Berkeley, USA recruited pregnant women living in the farm-working, primarily Latino communities of Central California’s Salinas Valley between 1999 and 2000. While the primary aim of the study was to examine the impact of pesticide exposure on childhood development, the researchers used the opportunity to examine the effects of other chemicals as well. The scientists measured concentrations of phthalates, parabens and phenols in urine samples taken from mothers twice during pregnancy, and from children at the age of 9. They then followed the growth of the children — 159 boys and 179 girls — between the ages of 9 and 13 to track the timing of developmental milestones marking different stages of puberty.

 

The vast majority — more than 90 percent — of urine samples of both mothers and children showed detectable concentrations of all three classes of chemicals, with the exception of triclosan which was present in approximately 70 percent of samples. The researchers found that every time the concentrations of diethyl phthalate and triclosan in the mother’s urine doubled, the timing of developmental milestones in girls shifted approximately one month earlier. Girls who had higher concentrations of parabens in their urine at age 9 also experienced puberty at younger ages. However, it is unclear if the chemicals were causing the shift, or if girls who reached puberty earlier were more likely to start using personal care products at younger ages.

 

The limitations are that these chemicals are quickly metabolized and one to two urinary measurements per developmental point may not accurately reflect usual exposure. The study population was limited to Latino children of low socioeconomic status living in a farmworker community and may not be widely generalizable. But, this study contributes to a growing literature that suggests that exposure to certain endocrine disrupting chemicals may impact timing of puberty in children.

 

References:

 

https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/prenatal-exposure-chemicals-personal-care-products-may-speed-puberty-girls?utm_source=fiat-lux

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30517665

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24781428

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30203993

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25173057

 

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