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UNC Lineberger’s Shawn Ahmed, PhD, was senior author of a study that published in Cell Reports on April 3. Ahmed, former UNC Lineberger postdoctoral fellow Bree Heestand and colleagues demonstrate in the study “Transgenerational sterility of Piwi mutants represents a dynamic form of Adult Reproductive Diapause” that reproductive arrest in adults can also occur in response to a form of “heritable stress” that is transmitted by germ cells, which likely represents a form of epigenomic damage.

UNC Lineberger’s Shawn Ahmed, PhD.

Reproductive arrest in adults is well known to occur in response to environmental stress, but the study also shows that a form of stress can be inherited that can cause sterility. The findings suggest that you can inherit stress from your parents, and that this can have dramatic effects on development.

In addition to Ahmed and Heestand, the other authors were Stephen Frenk, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, and the former graduate students Matt Simon and Denis Titov.