Chromosomes are rearranged and organized into new sets to create diversity as they are passed from parent to offspring through the germline. The genetic changes can be followed in populations, however this represents only a small proportion of of the diversity that is generated in our germline. Men produce 500 billion sperm in their lifetime and women are born with two million eggs. Human reproduction is particularly error-prone. 50% of pre-implantation embryos have defects in their development and 20%-85% of human eggs have extra or missing chromosomes (aneuploidy). Maternal age is the strongest risk factor known for aneuploidy and our interests in reproductive aging also includes understanding the decreased quality as well as the decline in the number of eggs as women age.
Our laboratory investigates the role of the DNA damage response and cell cycle proteins in governing the genetic changes that occur in the germline to generate diversity and maintain genome stability. In particular, we focus on those genes that when defective give to reproductive disease or cancer. We use a powerful combination of model organisms (mouse and yeast) as well as human eggs and embryos to explore this poorly understood area of human biology.