Epigenetics: Why DNA Is Not Our Destiny

Date(s) - 27 Feb 2013
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

U of A Centennial Hall

Feb. 27: Epigenetics: Why DNA Is Not Our Destiny

By Dr. Donata Vercelli, professor of cellular and molecular medicine; director, Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases

Two twin sisters, one with and one without asthma. Two genetically identical mice, one black and lean, the other yellow and obese. Two human cells, one from the brain and the other from the skin. They look and act different, but they have the same DNA sequence. All of this is the work of epigenetics. Much emphasis has been placed on DNA and genes as repositories of the code designed to transmit information and dictate biological programs. However, developmental trajectories and responses to environmental cues are – and need to be – highly plastic. This plasticity is made possible by epigenetic mechanisms that enhance or silence gene expression at the right time in the right environmental context but do not change the DNA sequence. Thus the code inscribed in our DNA is necessary but not sufficient to recapitulate our biological identity and determine our biological destiny. This lecture will explore how understanding epigenetics will advance our understanding of human biology and disease.

The University of Arizona College of Science‘s popular spring lecture serieswill present six free lectures exploring the astonishing advances in genomics research. The first lecture will be on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall on the UA campus.

From Gregor Mendel’s discovery of the laws of heredity to the recognition of DNA as life’s critical molecular “key,” scientists have probed the role of this remarkably complex material and the code it contains. Their findings continue to expand our understanding of life.

With the genetic code of hundreds of life forms now sequenced and geometrically larger genomic datasets publicly available, scientists are able to advance research into the genetic roots of disease, how global viral pandemics occur, how transformative agricultural research can help feed our planet’s growing population, how environmental influences affect individual development, and how genetic mutation and variation impact survival at the species level.

This year’s corresponding teacher education program for science teachers at the 6-12 grade levels has filled. Research Corporation for Science Advancement funds tuition for the program, which provides two hours of graduate credit.

All the Genomics Now lectures are free and open to the public. The lectures will be held at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the UA campus. Parking is available on a pay-per-use basis in the Tyndall Avenue Garage, 880 E. Fourth St.

Funding for the College of Science Spring 2013 Lecture Series is provided by the Arizona Daily Star; Carondelet Health Network; Galileo Circle; Godat Design; Holualoa Companies; Miraval Resort & Spa; Raytheon; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Tucson Electric Power; and Ventana Medical Systems, Inc.