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Study finds cells that become sperm or eggs in humans are vulnerable during pregnancy

A new study, published online today by Amander Clark, Ph.D., at the UCLA Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, significantly furthers the understanding of the human germline – the cells that create eggs or sperm in humans during prenatal development in the womb. The highly specialized cells of the germline, called germ cells, are the only cell type in the body capable of passing parents’ genes on to their biological children. Abnormalities in the germ cells can cause infertility as well as diseases such as germ cell tumors in young boys and primary ovarian insufficiency in young girls. Published by the journal Cell, the study looks closely at how the genetic information of prenatal germ cells is shielded from harm during prenatal life, showing that these important cells lack protection during a phase of development, leaving them vulnerable to damage.

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