June 22, 2020

Congratulations to Sue Hammoud on the SSR Virendra B. Mahesh New Investigator Award!

Sue Hammoud, PhD
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan, USA

Dr. Hammoud is an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan in the Department of Human Genetics. Dr. Hammoud received her Ph.D. at the University of Utah. As a graduate student working with Drs. Brad Cairns and Douglas Carrell, Sue demonstrated that the paternal contribution to the embryo extends far beyond paternally imprinted genes and the genomic DNA sequence in sperm – encompassing histone modifications and small RNAs. As a postdoctoral Helen Hay Whitney fellow in the Cairns and Jones lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute she has explored how chromatin regulates germline stem cell development and tissue homeostasis. As an independent investigator the Hammoud lab has been very fortunate to receive support from NIH (NIH innovator) and private foundations (Open Philanthropy and Chan Zuckerberg foundations), which has allowed to explore two fundamental question:

1) How do sperm transmit information from fathers to offspring through factors that go beyond the DNA sequence, and to define the molecules that may be responsible.

Through the use of novel genetic tools, we have begun to dissect the functional significance of these proteins in establishing sperm chromatin architecture during germ cell differentiation, and follow the fate and significance of these proteins during embryo development. In short, we hope our work will shed new light into the evolution of germline packaging and its contribution to embryogenesis. 

2) What are the molecular and cellular mechanisms for creating a developmentally competent gamete in vivo?  We are interested in defining the essential signals provided by the diverse classes of somatic cells that promote germ cell differentiation, meiosis, and sperm maturations. To address these questions, we take a comparative approach to characterize thousands of cells in mouse, macaque and human testes using cutting-edge single cell transcriptomics, proteomics and spatial genomic analysis tools.  These data revealed a wealth of novel evolutionary insights about the molecular and developmental changes during the spermatogenesis process, which we are beginning to apply to develop new in vitro models/systems of gametogenesis. Successful reconstitution of germ cell development in vitro or in artificial host system will provide an experimental platform for a better understanding of germ cell development, serve as an alternative source of gametes for human and animal reproduction, potentially cure genetic and iatrogenic causes of male infertility.

In addition to her research effort, Dr. Hammoud has a passion for teaching the next generation scientists – including graduate students, elementary, middle school and high school students through being on the graduate education committee, hosting Science Olympiad students and teachers brought in through the University of Michigan REACT Program, being a faculty advisor for Michigan DNA Day initiative , and co-hosting  the University of Michigan Summer Bridge Scholars with Monica Marvin Associate clinical Professor of Human Genetic.