University of Chicago geneticist discusses epigenetics next week

Could our environment affect how we pass on our genes? Photo: Stephen Barnett

Epigenetics is the emerging branch of science aimed at understanding how environmental influences such as diet and stress can act on an organism at the level of controlling gene activity and how these environmentally induced changes may be inherited by offspring.

On Friday, Sept. 7, at 8 p.m. in Ramsey Auditorium, University of Chicago geneticist Alex Ruthenburg will give a lecture on the development of the concept of epigenetics as part of the Fermilab Lecture Series. His talk will cover several areas where epigenetic information carriers are known to function, reveal what researchers in the field have discovered and are still wrestling with about the mechanism and conclude with connections between these molecular players and human health.

Until recently, Ruthenberg says, epigenetics was a catchall term for everything we do not yet understand about heredity beyond the double helix of DNA, a murky backwater of exceptions to the standard rules of genetics. New research is beginning to shed light on these puzzling phenomena. What we have learned thus far suggests that these epigenetic pathways may be far more general and central to genome management than imagined.

Admission to the lecture is $7.

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