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.
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.
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.
Rare genetic mutation linked to psychiatric illnesses, obesity B Charlie Fidelman, GAZETTE Health Reporter October 8, 2012 MONTREAL — Grounding chronic illnesses and mental disorders in human DNA is like trying to tease out a giant riddle that’s complicated by the intricate relationship between biology and behaviour.
From the lab of CIFAR Fellow Michael Meaney (McGill University): Scientists have provided evidence that socioeconomic status affects family function and the development and function of brain regions that are critical for attention, learning and memory. Meaney's lab looks into how parenting produces lasting effects on cognitive and emotional development. His lab examined development in rats and found parental influences on the chemical, or 'epigenetic', signals that control the activity in the brain of genes that influence the connections between brain cells as well as learning and memory.