UC Berkeley News
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Research Roundup

02 April 2008

Connection found between folate intake, genetic abnormalities in sperm

Healthy men who report lower levels of the nutrient folate in their diets have higher rates of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm, according to a new study by researchers at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Women of child-bearing age are encouraged to maintain adequate levels of folate in their diet, but the new findings, published March 20 in the journal Human Reproduction, provide evidence that what men eat may also affect reproductive health.

"Recent studies have suggested that paternal diet affects sperm count and motility, which is important for conception, but this new study takes it further to say that male diet may be important for healthy offspring as well," says study coordinator Suzanne Young, a researcher at the School of Public Health. "Our study is the first to look at the effects of diet on chromosomal abnormalities in sperm. These abnormalities would cause either miscarriages or children with genetic syndromes if the sperm fertilized an egg."

For the full story, visit newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/folatesperm.

- Sarah Yang

Brain wiring tied to growth hormone

A human hormone known to stimulate the growth of cells throughout the body has a new role - helping to set up the proper nerve connections in the odor center of the brain, according to Berkeley scientists.

The hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF), is well-known to biomedical researchers and has been tested as a therapy for diabetes and some growth disorders. Until now, decades of research have turned up only one solid role for IGF, however, and that is to make cells grow and multiply.

Neuroscientist John Ngai, Coates Family Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Functional Genomics Laboratory at UC Berkeley, and his colleagues have now found that IGF plays a critical role in setting up the connections between chemical detectors in the nose and the brain's olfactory centers. IGF joins a small number of identified molecules known to direct the growth of nerve cells in the brain during its development, making it "another tool in the brain's tool kit for how you wire up the brain," Ngai said.

For the full story, visit newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/ngai.

- Robert Sanders