Researchers hope to uncover the genetic mechanisms that take place during cockroach pregnancy and use this knowledge to better understand human pregnancy. The first-ever sequencing of a cockroach genome species, Diploptera punctate, has been created by researchers at the University of Cincinnati and may help scientists create a research model similar to current models that utilize data from mice and apply it to humans.
In this case, the model could reveal the effects of stress during pregnancy on both the mother and daughter. The researchers extracted ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is found in the cells of every living organism that inhabits the Earth, and created a gene readout to examine the stages of changes that take place during cockroach pregnancy and examine if these changes can be applied to other mammals.
“When I started this project two and a half years ago, we might have had a maximum of 80 sequenced genes for this animal,” Emily Jennings, who conducted the research, said in a press release. “Now, we’ve found as many as 11,000 possible genes. We’re in the process of assigning functions, roles and names by comparing sequences to sequenced genomes, such as that of the fruit fly, stored in the database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information.”
“We’re on the edge of creating an exciting new resource for examining how a mother nourishes her babies before birth, a process typically associated with mammals,” she added.
During pregnancy, the D. punctate cockroach creates a unique milky secretion that provides its embryos with various essential nutrients including proteins and carbohydrates, a process that is comparable to how pregnant mammals utilize placentas. Jennings’ research will focus on the gene expression that takes place during the pregnancy process and examine the possibility of the presence of genes that start or stop the pregnancy.
“Ultimately, our next step will be looking at how interaction between the mother and the embryos can be affected, so if the mother is stressed during pregnancy – such as being exposed to a toxin or being deprived of resources such as food and water – we want to see how that can affect development of the embryos,” Jennings said.
The findings are currently being presented at the annual national meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Portland, Ore., until Jan. 7.
Source: HNGN – Headlines and Global News
Writer: Tyler MacDonald