Ahmed Balboula, assistant professor in animal sciences, is working to understand how chromosome segregation is regulated in female gametes (oocytes). During the early stages of pregnancy, chromosome mis-segregation can result in aneuploidy (abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell), the leading genetic cause of miscarriages and congenital abnormalities. His work has implications for both animal and human health.
Balboula recently received R35 grant (Outstanding Investigator Award) through the National Institute of General Medicine (NIGMS, NIH) totaling $1.9 million for a five-year period. Funding is for a project titled Mechanisms Underpinning Meiotic Spindle Formation and Behavior.
Balboula is a reproductive biologist, interested in cell biology and genetics. He is aiming to understand molecular mechanisms that regulate oocyte meiosis and preimplantation embryo development.
“Unfortunately, with the advancement of age, female gamete (reproductive cells) quality highly declines due to increased chromosome segregation errors during oocyte division,” said Balboula. “That is why we can have a mis-number of chromosomes in the female egg, resulting in miscarriages or congenital abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Ultimately, we want the chromosomes to be segregated precisely during oocyte division.”
The machinery for chromosome segregation is the spindle. The spindle needs to attach to the chromosomes to help segregate them. If there is a problem with the spindle, there are higher rates of chromosome mis-segregation.
For this specific project, Balboula wanted to understand molecular mechanisms regulating meiotic spindle formation and positioning in mouse oocytes.
“I am interested in understanding how the spindle is formed and how the spindle is positioned to ensure successful chromosome segregation.”
Balboula joined the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) in 2019. Before coming to MU, he received his PhD in Japan, then performed post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University.
Balboula was then named a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Cambridge in England for two years. The Marie Curie fellowship is a prestigious fellowship in Europe, created to support research in the European Research Area (ERA). This fellowship is among Europe’s most competitive and prestigious research and innovation fellowships.