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.
Injuries that result in chronic pain, such as limb injuries, and those unrelated to the brain are associated with epigenetic changes in the brain which persist months after the injury, according to researchers at McGill University. Epigenetics explores how the environment – including diet, exposure to contaminants and social conditions such as poverty – can have a long-term impact on the activity of our genes.