Germ cells are little known, yet essential parts of our bodies. Also known as sex cells, they mature into gametes. They are the material basis of reproduction and transmission of the genome across generations. While it was long held that germ cells were protected from outside influences, a recent body of literature shows that they are susceptible to injuries that may impact fertility and the health of next generations.  In particular, toxic exposures, stress, or diet have been shown to cause epigenetic effects not only in a fetus but also in their own descendants. With unprecedented rates of infertility across the world and the increasing burden of chronic disease, the vulnerability of germ cells raises many questions for public health, equity, and intergenerational ethics. In turn, new biotechnologies such as in vitro gametogenesis that brings a therapeutic approach to germ cell vulnerability raise novel bioethical questions.

Postdoctoral scholar Anne Le Goff conducts this research at the UCLA EpiCenter, with the Allard Lab, the Clark Lab, and Hannah Landecker.