Germline Stem Cell Biology team wins ARC Discovery grant

An RNA project with potential in both male infertility and cancer has been awarded significant funding by the Australian Research Council.

A/Prof Robin Hobbs and Dr Minni (Minna-Liisa) Änkö receive an ARC grant for male infertility and cancer.
L–R: A/Prof Robin Hobbs, Dr Minni (Minna-Liisa) Änkö

Associate Professor Robin Hobbs and Dr Minni (Minna-Liisa) Änkö were awarded $567,198 over three years for their research investigating the role of the RNA helicase DDX5 in regulating gene expression programs of male germline stem cells, using pre-clinical models, stem cell culture and genome-wide analysis approaches.

“This study could help us understand the causes of male infertility and suggest therapeutic approaches to preserve fertility, but DDX5 is also involved in cancer development, so our studies could have broad implications for disease,” he said.

Following up on work the team previously published in Nature Communications, A/Prof Hobbs says the ARC funding allows them to explore the role of DDX5 in the male germline in more detail.

SSC function poorly understood

“Despite the importance of male germline stem cells (known as spermatogonial stem cells or SSCs) for male fertility, molecular mechanisms regulating their function remain poorly understood,” he said.

“Our studies are the first to identify an essential role for DDX5 in SSCs and fertility.”

“There is increasing interest in study of regulators of RNA processing in stem cells and disease. This grant will allow us to contribute to this rapidly growing field.”

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