How chromosomes pass from parents to children – University of Copenhagen

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14 December 2016

How chromosomes pass from parents to children

ERC Consolidator Grant

What happens when genes, DNA and chromosomes are transmitted from parents to children? What takes place in the biological process when it is normal, and what happens when it is not? These are questions that Professor Eva Hoffmann intends to use her ERC Consolidator Grant to examine in depth.

All mammals are born with all their eggs. This also applies to human beings, where women have their full complement of eggs from the moment they are born. The situation then deteriorates, however, with both the quantity and quality of the eggs diminishing over time. When a woman reaches her 30s, around 30 per cent of her eggs and embryos feature chromosome defects – a figure that rises to more than 80 per cent after her 40th birthday.

But why should this be so? How do the eggs ensure that the parents’ chromosomes are passed on to their children, and why do things start to go wrong when women grow older? This is an area Professor Eva Hoffman from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine is keen to investigate. She is one of three researchers at SUND to have been awarded one of the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grants that are presented to researchers who have displayed extraordinary talent and excellent results.

“It’s a huge honour to receive this grant. There are so many large and important projects under way in Europe, and I feel hugely privileged to have the opportunity to continue our crucial research here in Copenhagen. The goal of our work is to improve knowledge about some of the key riddles associated with the creation of a human life,” says Eva Hoffmann.

Close collaboration with Rigshospitalet
Eva Hoffmann’s field of research is centred on understanding the molecular regulation of changes in our DNA and chromosomes as they are passed on from parents to children. The research examines these processes directly in eggs and early stage embryos. The area has undergone almost explosive development, and new technology has now made it possible to assess DNA in individual cells.

“We’ve developed these new technologies, which are heralding a new era in investigating the human genome and how it changes in the gender cell line. This presents us with some truly extraordinary opportunities. Moreover, we’re working closely with Claus Yding Andersen, who is employed at Rigshospitalet and a leading expert in the ovarian tissue programme.  We share important knowledge that allows us to continue our research,” she explains.

If you ask Eva Hoffmann what drives her and her team of researchers, she will point to inquisitiveness and passion in equal measure. A graduate biologist and PhD from Oxford, Eva held postdoc positions at Leicester and Yale Universities before setting up her own laboratory at the MRC Genome Centre at Sussex University. Having spent more than 20 years abroad, Eva was headhunted for the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine a year ago.

“It’s great to be back home in dear old Denmark. I’m particularly impressed with how easy it is to work with the clinical sector. The doctors are ready and willing to perform and back up my basic research so that we can carry on examining key functions and mechanisms. When working to comprehend illnesses, it’s important to understand the basics first. And this is eminently possible here because we have such a strong working relationship,” concludes Eva Hoffmann.

Contact:
Eva Hoffmann, email: eva@sund.ku.dk, tel. +45 3533 1128