The Yorkshire constituency o organised the 3rd Yorkshire Christmas Seminar entitled “Epigenetics: Beyond DNA sequence”. This event brought the opportunity to learn about the role that both the environment and genetics play in the development of human diseases. Epigenetics refers to the genetic effects not encoded in the DNA sequence of an organism (such as environmental changes) that switch genes on and off and affect gene expression. This epigenetic regulation occurs in all organisms and is known to be key in the onset of human diseases such as in cancer. This new field of study makes room for the Lamarckian theories that place the environment as a decisive factor in the evolution of the species. We were honoured to host two world-leading experts in the field: Dr Manel Esteller (Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), Spain) who has advocated the development of a comprehensive Human Epigenome Project (HEP) to map all the epigenetic marks in our DNA, and Dr Ron Chen (University of Leeds, UK) whose research interests are the epigenetic control of transcription, animal development and the conserved regulatory circuits underlying human diseases such as cancer and age-related diseases including Parkinson’s disease.
This event finalized with a roundtable entitled “Genes or the Environment?” moderated by Dr Ana Lopez (University of Sheffield, UK), a postdoctoral researcher specialised in plant epigenetics, which gave both speakers and attendees (approx. 40) the opportunity to discuss the ground- breaking field of epigenetics.