Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, has been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health for studying the regulation of male fertility by small noncoding ribonucleic acids.
This is his second major NIH RO1 grant in the last six years for his research which has significant implications for male fertility and contraception.
Yan’s research indicates that the X chromosome in developing sperm cells encodes numerous tiny ribonucleic acids called microRNAs despite the fact that most of genes on the X chromosomes are suppressed. This observation implies that these small RNAs have critical roles in chromosome inactivation and also in sperm formation.
“This finding opens a new avenue towards understanding the role of these small RNA species in the control of sperm production. Worldwide, one in nine couples in their reproductive age experience infertility. On the other hand, the number of unintended pregnancy is increasing yearly. Since these small RNAs are involved in the control of sperm formation, they can be causative factors in male infertility and also can be used as non-hormonal male contraceptive targets,” said Yan.
Yan is one of several basic scientist researchers at the School of Medicine who will move his laboratory into the new Center for Molecular Medicine when it opens later this summer. The Center for Molecular Medicine, the first new basic science research facility to be built at the School of Medicine in nearly 30 years, will house portions of the Departments of Microbiology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Cell Physiology and Biology and serve as headquarters for the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Diseases.