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Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research

Techniques have been developed to enable the modification of individual genes in animals and plants and thereby precisely alter inherited traits. These genetically altered animals and plants are called transgenic and are of enormous value in medicine and agriculture. An improved understanding of the basic processes governing germ cell and embryo development and of the biology of gametes (sperm and oocytes) and embryonic stem cells will enable us to improve reproductive efficiency, generate animal models of human and animal disease and help provide the knowledge base for regenerative medicine, as well as toward the treatment of infertility.

Scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine performed pioneering studies in the development of transgenic techniques and were responsible for production of the first transgenic mice and farm animals. Capitalizing on years of foundation research, the Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research was established in 1998. Our primary mission is to undertake innovative research on stem cell biology, germ cell development, and animal transgenesis. A major objective of this research is to improve the health and productivity of domestic animals by genetic modification. Intellectually, our center interacts with Penn Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IRM)and Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health (CRRWH). Our center co-sponsors the weekly seminar series with CRRWH.

Current studies at the Center are focused on exploring the biology of germ line stem cells, as well as male and female gametes:

  • Study and manipulation of male germ line stem cells has implications for control of fertility, large animal transgenesis and genetic preservation
  • Analysis of the molecular mechanisms involved in chromatin dynamics, homologous recombination, and chromosome segregation during meiosis will elucidate causes for infertility and birth defects as a result of aneuploidy
  • Elucidation of biogenesis and functions of piRNAs (Piwi-interacting small non-coding RNAs) in the germline
  • Investigation and development of optimum cell culture media used for germ cell lines both in the laboratory and for use on the farm as assisted reproductive technologies.
  • Study of molecular mechanisms of mammalian sperm motility and testicular degeneration has implications for treatment of infertility and contraception
  • Learning about chromatin remodeling processes and preservation of genomic integrity during germ cell development and fertilization—e.g., as facilitated by poly (ADP-ribose) metabolism—will yield important information on the pathobiology of infertility and tumorigenesis
Standing Faculty
  Name Title
  Gary Althouse, MS, PhD, DVM Professor and Chair, Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center
  Ralph L. Brinster, VMD, PhD Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology
  Margret L. Casal, DVM, MS, PhD Associate Professor of Medical Genetics
  John D. Gearhart, PhD James W. Effron University Professor
Director, Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology
Professor, Animal Biology
  George L. Gerton, PhD Research Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  Ralph G. Meyer, PhD Assistant Professor, Developmental Biology
  Hans R. Scholer, PhD Adjunct Professor
  Patricia Sertich, MS, VMD Associate Professor, CE, of Medicine and Reproduction
Director, Equine Endometrial Biopsy Service
Director, Clinical Service, Hoffman Research Center
New Bolton Center
  Regina M. Turner, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACT Assistant Professor, Section of Reproduction and Behavior, New Bolton Center
  Jeremy Wang, MD, MS, PhD Associate Professor of Developmental Biology
Director, Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research
Support Staff
  Name Title
  Patricia I. Bodek Coordinator
  Theresa W. Jordan Barrier Facility Lab Manager
  Adrian Leu, AA, BS Research Specialist