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INRA researcher Hélène Jammes recognized by the Académie d’Agriculture de France

Hélène Jammes is director of the Joint Research Unit for Developmental Biology and Reproduction at the INRA center in Jouy-en-Josas. She is also one of 17 INRA researchers to receive an award from the Académie d’Agriculture de France in 2012. This award underscores the undeniable importance that her field of study, applied animal epigenetics, has at present.

. © INRA
Updated on 06/18/2014
Published on 01/28/2013

What does this award from the Académie d’Agriculture de France mean to you?

It recognizes the importance of animal epigenetics. We now know that the environment can affect epigenetic processes and therefore modify gene expression. We are seeking to understand how epigenetic tags are involved in the differential expression of the genetic potential of highly selected lines of livestock. A significant part of the work that our research unit is doing is specifically focused on fetal programming.

What is fetal programming?

Over the course of fetal development, information about the maternal environment (e.g., stress, exposure to toxins, and nutrition) arrives via the placenta. This information is passed on to the fetus in the form of an epigenetic memory and can then shape what happens later to that individual. In humans, it may lead to a predisposition to obesity or cardiovascular diseases. In our study animals, epigenetic memory can alter genetic potential and have impacts on milk production or muscle development.

What are your model organisms?

We are working with cloned animals—the model for cell reprogramming first developed by Jean-Paul Renard. During the cloning process, a differentiated cell is sampled and its nucleus is transferred into an oocyte, where it will be reprogrammed so as to allow embryonic development to occur. The epigenetic tags found in this nucleus will need to be modified so that new tags can be added. Changes in the reprogramming sequence can be introduced at any point in this process. Our research group is interested in the long-term effects of these changes, both in the fetus—during gestation—and in adult animals.

How far along are you in your research?

We are still in the exploratory phase. We are documenting epigenetic tags in different organs. At present, we are trying to characterize the relationship between epigenetic tags, gene expression disruption, and histological patterns in the liver. We will then repeat this study using muscle and placental tissue. These links between epigenetic tags, gene expression, and phenotype, whose existence we are trying to establish, are crucial. It is the first time that this type of work is being done in bovines.

CV in Brief

Hélène Jammes

Jammes studied biology and animal physiology at the Université d’Orsay (Paris XI). She then obtained a master of advanced studies from Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris VII and did a PhD at INRA, where she discovered her passion for cell biology while working with Hubert Clauser. After spending three years in a CNRS laboratory in Gif-sur-Yvette studying polypeptide hormones, Jammes was hired by INRA in 1987 as a research scientist and began working in the Cell and Molecular Biology laboratory. From 2002 to 2007, she studied placental epigenetics at the Cochin Institute; she has continued to explore this specialized research topic since returning to INRA in 2007.