Egenis Seminar with Dr Karola Stotz 'Nurture goes Molecular: Environmental epigenomics of health and disease'
SpeakersEgenis seminar with Dr Karola Stotz, Australian Research Fellow, Philosophy Department, University of Sydney
VenueUniversity of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJRoom no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:00 - 4:30Abstract:
The study of the environmental contribution to development (‘nurture’) has traditionally been aligned with critiques of biological ‘reductionism’. But the study of nurture is rapidly using the same reductionistic investigative strategies as the study of paradigmatic aspects of ‘nature’, such as genetic heredity. We are now in a position to study nurture in terms of a wide range of environmental signals that enter the body and either directly or indirectly induce gene expression both in the short term, and permanently through epigenetic modifications of specific genomic regions, that are accurately reproduced during mitosis, and sometimes even miosis. Hence some of these epigenetic mechanisms allow the inheritance of information acquired by parents to the offspring. They provide several pathways - other than learning - by which the effects of experience can be transmitted to later generations. A range of nutritional, hormonal, xenobiotic and behavioural cues to which parents are exposed can affect the development of their offspring which themselves may not have experienced the cue themselves. In this paper I will present new research in the developmental origin of health and disease in humans with particular emphasis on metabolic diseases and stress response. This research suggests that very early life experiences cause predictive adaptive responses which manifest themselves in certain metabolic and psychological phenotypes. A mismatch between prediction and later reality can lead to disease phenotypes such as obesity and depression. Despite the success of such reductionistic research more integrative approaches are needed in order to develop novel, successful diagnostic, preventative, and therapeutic strategies for human diseases based on our understanding of the interaction between epigenome, body and environment.