Father's lasting influence: Molecular foundations of intergenerational transmission of the paternal environment
Laval and McGill researchers team up with Health Canada and international researchers from Africa, Italy, Copenhagen and Greenland to investigate the impact of environmental exposures on the hertibale information coded in the fathers sperm and the health of offspring. The research team includes Professor Sarah Kimmins of the Department of Animal Science and is funded for $1.5 million by the Institute of Aboriginal Health, and the Institute of Gender and Health.
Until now scientists have believed that the variations in traits such as our height, skin colour, tendency to gain weight or not, intelligence, tendency to develop certain diseases, etc., all of them traits that exist along a continuum, were a result of both genetic and environmental factors. But they didn’t know how exactly these things worked together. By studying ants, McGill researchers have identified a key mechanism by which environmental (or epigenetic) factors influence the expression of all of these traits, (along with many more).
McGill researchers have discovered, for the first time, the importance of a key epigenetic regulator in the development of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with learning, memory and neural stem cells. Epigenetic regulators change the way specific genes function without altering their DNA sequence. By working with mutant mice as models, the research team, led by Prof. Xiang-Jiao Yang, of McGill’s Goodman Cancer Center & Department of Medicine, McGill University Health Center, was able to link the importance of a specific epigenetic regulator known as BRPF1 to the healthy development of a region in the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus.
Researchers from Canada, the UK, Sweden and the US have discovered more than 30 genes that strongly affect an antibody involved in allergies and asthma. Some of the genes could provide targets for drugs to treat those conditions, according to the international team’s study, published online in Nature on Feb. 18.
What if we could reduce rates of a wide range of devastating mental illnesses through early detection? Thanks to a significant gift of $2.9M from the Irving Ludmer Family Foundation to The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University (The Neuro), hope is on the horizon through the expansion of a major collaboration to understand why some children are vulnerable to conditions like autism, attention deficit disorder and social anxiety, and what can be done to prevent these disorders before they take hold. This collaboration will also explore brain disorders in the aging population, such as dementia, in an unprecedented investigation of mental health across the lifespan.
The number of days an expectant mother was deprived of electricity during Quebec’s Ice Storm (1998) predicts the epigenetic profile of her child, a new study finds.
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A report elucidates the widely recognized, but poorly understood, concept of gene-environment interaction, finding a molecular mechanism in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder: demethylation of a glucocorticoid response element in the stress response regulator FKBP5 that depends on both the risk allele and childhood trauma. [Review on epigenetics and childhood trauma by McGill's Moshe Szyf.]
Read more at Nature Neuroscience
The McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre will receive generous support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Génome Québec to continue its trailblazing research in the field of epigenetics. The support announced today by the funding partners will go toward examining how environmental factors can alter the expression of our DNA and have life-long effects on human health.