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When a DNA sequence remains the same but is used differently and results in phenotypic changes, it can be said that epigenetics is at play.

Professor Upasna Sharma at the University of California, Santa Cruz discusses her focus on the study of epigenetic inheritance by touching on the following topics:

  • How RNA differs from DNA and how the complexity of the former could lend itself to a better understanding of intergenerational inheritance
  • What impact stress, environmental toxins, and diet might play in sperm small RNA
  • The three primary ways in which gene regulation can take place
  • Whether or not it’s possible to identify all epigenetic marks in an organism (i.e. conduct an epigenetic sequencing)

Dr. Sharma is focused on answering some broad questions, including how epigenetic information is generated (specifically how sperm small RNAs are created and which enzymes play a role in their creation), how environmental factors can change the levels of RNA present, and what the functional consequence is of the abundant small RNA payload of sperm, as this might explain how epigenetic information is passed by small RNA to the next generation.

She expounds on the findings they’ve already made, which involve having identified when, where, and why tRNA fragments are made and how the female reproductive tract might lead to additional alteration of sperm.

She explains useful and interesting directions her research might take in the near future, and the technological limitations that must be acknowledged.

Tune in for all the details.

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