Lecture: Science 101 for Parents: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing the Understanding of Heredity

by NYC Firm Schools on April 27, 2011

We recommend this upcoming lecture, which is part of the Parents & Science initiative launched in 2007 by The Rockefeller University:

Science 101 for Parents: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing the Understanding of Heredity

  • Date: Thursday, April 28, 2011
  • Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Place: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
    York Avenue at 66th Street
    The Rockefeller University
    New York City
  • Featuring:
    David Allis, Ph.D.
    Joy and Jack Fishman Professor
    Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics
    The Rockefeller University

Register for the event here or contact Erika Layfield at (212) 327-7434 or elayfield@rockefeller.edu.

“To fully appreciate how genes work, you need to know something about epigenetics—the study of chemical modifications that can dramatically alter the activity of a gene without making any change in its DNA. In recent years, scientists have identified an array of epigenetic phenomena that are integral to biological function and may play a role in health conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to autism.

One of the international leaders in the field of epigenetics is David Allis, a distinguished biochemist on the Rockefeller faculty who will present this year’s Science 101 for Parents lecture. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Wiley Prize in the Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Allis is noted for essential discoveries about DNA-bound proteins in the chromosomes that play a key role in the epigenetic regulation of genes.

Recent research has demonstrated that epigenetic changes can occur in rapid response to shifting environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, or stress. Studies have also shown that—contrary to all expectations—epigenetic modifications can be passed from one generation to the next. The child of a cigarette smoker, for example, could inherit epigenetic marks that reflect the parent’s level of exposure to tobacco. These sorts of epigenetic adaptations are lightning fast when compared to the glacial pace of classic evolutionary change.

The surprising revelations about environment’s impact on heredity are only part of the story. Research in epigenetics is also a great source of hope in biomedicine, holding significance for the understanding and treatment of many diseases. Discoveries David Allis made several years ago, for example, have already led to therapies for forms of leukemia that affect young people. Today, several biotech companies are developing experimental drugs that exploit epigenetic pathways. Many of these efforts focus on neurodegenerative diseases and infections, in addition to cancer.”

A bit more about the Parents & Science initiative:

“Parents & Science participants:

* Meet leading scientists and learn about emerging discoveries and biomedical breakthroughs that are improving the health and well-being of children
* Increase their scientific literacy, enabling them to talk more knowledgeably about scientific issues and play a more active role in their children’s education
* Engage in an intellectual and social exchange with other parents who share an interest in science and biomedicine

The Parents & Science initiative:

* Fosters a dialogue between scientists, medical practitioners, and parents about child and adolescent health and development
* Builds bridges between the University and New York City area schools and parents, promoting scientific literacy and education at all levels”

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