Two LSU researchers have a four-year, $500,000 grant to figure out whether one natural form of DNA regulation affects cattle embryos’ ability to survive.
LSU AgCenter researchers Zongliang “Carl” Jiang and Ken Bondioli are studying DNA methylization, a chemical attachment that acts like an on-off switch for individual genes. This form was known in other organisms but wasn’t found in mammals until 2016. Jiang said he recently found it in cattle embryos.
Jiang says the research might eventually help livestock production and even human fertility treatments, but that’s years in the future. Right now, he says, the researchers are just investigating how it works.
The grant is from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“Early embryonic loss has been identified as one of the main problems affecting fertility of agriculturally important animals—cattle, sheep and swine—with most of the losses occurring during the first two weeks of development,” he says “Our ultimate goal is to understand basic biology governing bovine early embryonic loss and therefore develop new approaches to improve fertility of animals.”
For instance, a herd’s best cows are sometimes given hormones to produce extra embryos for transferring into surrogate mothers. If this modification controls embryo development, it might indicate which embryos will survive and which aren’t worth transferring, he said.
“If we know it is a healthy embryo, we can save money,” he said. See the full announcement from the AgCenter.