Specialties: Environmental reproductive physiology, developmental biology
The main research interest in my laboratory has been focused on the impacts of the environment, nutrition and genetic predisposition on male fertility and heritable diseases with an epigenetic component. Several laboratories, including my own, have provided evidence that sperm carry an epigenetic program which contributes to the control of embryonic gene expression. This epigenetic program has been shown to be subject to change by gene-environment interactions, making males susceptible throughout their lifetime to adverse environmental factors with consequences that are passed on to the next generation. Epigenetic information is layered on top of the genetic information provided by the DNA. Its known molecular basis consists for instance of DNA CpG methylation, chromatin modifications such as posttranslational modifications of histones, insulator proteins, and other proteins, as well as coding, and non-coding RNAs, and all of these have the potential to regulate gene activity. Changes to the sperm epigenetic program have been identified as likely causes of embryonic failure and epigenetic late-onset disease problems in his progeny, such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and behavioral changes. Our long-term goal is to understand the relevant mechanisms of sperm epigenetic programming and its inheritance to the next generation which will help us to make adequate lifestyle choices and develop pharmacological intervention strategies to improve human and animal health.
I graduated from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany as a Diplom Biologe (similar to M.S) with majors in Molecular Cell Biology and Botany in 1994. From 1995-1998 I completed my doctoral research on the role of poly(ADP-ribose) metabolism in DNA repair and carcinogenesis at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany. As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked on the development of viral vectors for gene therapy and human genetics at the University Hospital of the University of Tuebingen until 2001. From 2002-2005, I trained as an Assistant Research Scientist in the area of poly(ADP-ribose) metabolism as a pharmacological target for cancer therapy at the College of Pharmacy at Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona under the guidance of Myron K. Jacobson. I was also involved in R & D as a scientist at Niadyne Pharma Inc. at that time. In 2005, I accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, to investigate poly(ADP-ribose)-dependent chromatin remodeling events and epigenetic programming in the male germ line. During this time, I taught veterinary pharmacology, a course that I also co-organized. In August 2013, I joined the USU faculty as Associate Professor in the Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences where I have been teaching and directing the VM7522 Pharmacology course in the joint School of Veterinary Medicine Program with Washington State University (WIMU).
There are undergraduate and graduate student research opportunities currently available in the lab – please contact me by email: Ralph Meyer. Take a look at the openings here.