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Can Global Warming be changing DNA?

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Author: Natasha Martin

Rising global temperatures have been a pressing issue for our generation. However, little is known about the implications of these rising temperatures on the plants, animals and humans that call this planet home. My research is observing cow cell development at a molecular level and seeing how environmental stressors change their DNA structure. We chose specific segments of the DNA as markers of fertility.

One Health, the relationships between the ENVIRONMENT, ANIMALS, AND HUMANS.

I have found that exposing the cells to heat at temperatures of 41°C for only one-hour change the cattle’s DNA structure. In the big picture, these results show that a cow in a barn or in an agriculture environment, is sensitive to environmental changes and stressors. These changes could lead to a decrease in overall fertility, with the possibility of the cow being sent to slaughter prematurely for not producing calves. These days, molecular genetics play such an integral part to the agriculture industry. If we can help in creating livestock with superior genetics and less fertility problems, we may have the opportunity of helping the environmental impact that livestock have on Earth such as greenhouse gas emission. My results show that the environment influences even the smallest molecules in cows. There is much we still do not know about these influences or what will happen in the long run, but research is a good stepping stone in understanding these impacts.

To conclude, One health principles sum up my research's significance nicely. One health research follows the ideologies of looking at the environment, animal, and human health all as inter-related processes that are relevant to all. Each is dependent on the other to succeed, and when one aspect is changed, multiple species in the processes are impacted. My research examines heat stress in bovine cells. This is directly relevant to the practice of agriculture but is also indirectly to human health, as cattle are an excellent translational model for other species. This suggests that any results that I may find in relation to heat stress, fertility, and TE expression, may also be applicable to human health.

Environmental change is directly relevant to my project because as global temperatures rise, more species are exposed to heat as an environmental stressor. By understanding how rising temperatures may impact cattle DNA structure and fertility, we can elude to how other animals may be impacted by climate change and other environmental stressors.

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