The beginning of my beginning

This new years ushers in a new era for my research career. At the end of last year, I learned I would have sufficient funding for the next five years. Now instead of struggling for funding one year at a time, it is full speed ahead. Many have asked if I am nervous, with expectations for me so high, but so far I’m not! Instead what I mostly feel is a great sense of gratitude and anticipation. 

I believe that in the next five to ten years we will learn a great deal about how a parent’s nutrition affects the metabolism and disease risk of their children. This is now a hot, fast moving research field. Just this December, three papers were published showing that paternal diet shifts small RNA populations  mainly tRNA and miRNA  in the sperm. Even more surprising and exciting, the sperm tRNAs appear to be produced in nearby somatic cells, and then transported to sperm via exosomes, suggesting that somatic cells might contribute to epigenetic inheritance. These data directly challenge Weismann’s germplasm theory. Perhaps genetic information cannot pass from soma to germ line, but it now appear that epigenetic information can. I am hoping that we will be able to publish our own data soon, contributing to this exciting and fast-moving field.

Besides thinking about epigenetic inheritance, I am now also very preoccupied thinking about budgets, recruitment of lab members, what projects to prioritize, and especially how to make a creative research environment for my new group. While I feel just a tiny bit frustrated over how all of this planning is keeping me away from my lab bench and “real” work, at the same time I know (hope) that it should be a good investment of my time. This is the year I will put together my dream team and begin hunting for the molecular mechanism in epigenetic inheritance. It will be so much fun!