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Epigenetics for Health and Disease


Dc, 11/05/2011 - 16:48

Epigenetics for Health and Disease


  • On the 12th and 13th of May, the Centre for Genomic Regulation holds the final meeting of the Consolider Ingenio Project “Epigenetics”. 
  • In the meeting, the nine research groups that have participated in the project over the last four years present their principal results and try to discover significant advances in the field of epigenetics and chromatin.

Epigenetics is a research area which has sparked great interest over the last few years, mainly because of the important relationship between epigenetic alterations and disease development, but also because it plays a crucial role during cell specialisation. 
Although all of the cells in our body have the same genetic information, each cell can specialise and be different from the others. To achieve this, there exists a control in the expression of genes and in the access to the information found in the genome. This control is governed by the characteristics of the structure of and modifications in DNA compaction. Thus, all these modifications, or epigenome, are responsible for the regulation of gene expression, and give rise to a new reading of the genome. Unravelling this new code is the main objective of the Consolider "Epigenetics" project. This will enable us to understand the mechanisms by which cells are able to activate the genes required for their functions. In turn, the project will explain many of the processes by which diseases develop. 
The final meeting of the Consolider "Epigenetics" project, which is to be held in Barcelona on the 12th and 13th May, aims to collect the results obtained by the participating groups over the last four years, and show the scientific advisory committee and the scientific community the latest discoveries in the field of epigenetics and their implications for biomedical research. It is expected that this will lead to an open discussion about the future of the field, which will serve to lay the groundwork for new research projects. This project has been supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation within the framework of the 2010 Consolider Ingenio aid programme.  
"The genetics and molecular biology of the next 20 years will be centered on epigenetics," affirms Dr. Miguel Beato, organiser of the Consolider Epigenetics meeting in Barcelona and director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation. "There still remains much technology to develop in this field and, in the coming years, we will see what the companies and research groups do about it," he stresses. 
The Consolider "Epigenetics" project has brought together the top Spanish research groups working in the field. The participating laboratories are those of Miguel Beato, Luciano Di Croce and Thomas Graf, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Marian Martínez Balbas from the IBMB-CSIC, Fernando Azorín from the IRB Barcelona and IBMB-CSIC, Manel Esteller from the IDIBELL, and Miguel Angel Peinado from the IMPPC, all in Barcelona, along with Gerardo López-Rodas, from the University of Valencia, and Jose Carlos Reyes from CSIC-CABIMER in Sevilla.
"Catalonia and Spain are playing an important role in European epigenetic research, and the Consolider "Epigenetics" programme has been crucial. It's a shame that this project is to be discontinued and that the entire Consolider aid program will disappear. It would be reasonable that the projects which have been successful, like ours, could be assessed for continuation," says Miguel Beato. 
The principal results obtained revolve around the following areas:

  • Remodelling of chromatin and the histone code: methods have been developed to predict and analyse the way in which DNA is compacted into chromatin and to study the influence of DNA and histone modification on gene expression.
  • Changes in chromatin during cell proliferation, differentiation and transformation: a study was undertaken into how these changes are carried out and how they affect cell specialisation and proliferation processes as well as their relationship with diseases like leukaemia, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
  • Study of microRNA and RNAi-mediated gene silencing: a relationship was established between microRNA (tiny fragments of RNA) and DNA methylation in cancerous cells.
  • Epigenetics of cancer: the expression of genes and DNA methylation was analysed at a genomic level in samples of breast cancer, prostate cancer and other tissues in order to discover target genes and biomarkers.
  • Use of new tools in epigenetics: the application of new sequencing technologies for the study of epigenetics and the development of new protocols and arrays (DNA chips) to study DNA methylation. 

All of this information is collected together in around 150 scientific papers published in high level journals. Of these, nine were collaborative efforts among Consolider "Epigenetics" project members. They have also made the cover of six relevant journals: Cell Stem Cell, Cancer Cell, Epigenetics, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Cell Cycle and Cancer Research
Final meeting at the CRG, Barcelona
The final meeting of Consolider “Epigenetics” will involve more than two hundred participants and will bring together the best in the field. In addition to serving as a forum to display the results of the last four years, it will also provide an up-to-date view of epigenetic research thanks to presentations by the forerunners in epigenetic research. 
Guest speakers to highlight include:

  • Genevieve Almouzni, from the Institut Curie in Paris.
  • Peter Becker, from Munich University.
  • Shelley Berger, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
  • Tony Kouzarides, from the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, UK.
  • Thomas Jenuwein from the Max Plank Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg.
  • Danny Reinberg, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York University, USA.

The closure of the Consolider "Epigenetics" meeting will feature Ms. Montserrat Torné, Director General of Management Research in the National R + D + i Plan.
Further information about Consolider Epigenetics:
Consolider “Epigenetics” has been made possible thanks to the Ministry of Science and Innovation within the framework of the “Epigenetics” project CSD2006-00049 of the 2010 Consolider Ingenio aid programme.
Consolider “Epigenetics” members:

  • Miguel Beato, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona.
  • Thomas Graf, Research Professor ICREA, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona.
  • Luciano Di Croce, Research Professor ICREA, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona.
  • Manel Esteller, Research Professor ICREA, Bellvitge Bioemdical Research Institute (IDIBELL), Barcelona.
  • Marian Martínez Balbás, Molecular Biology Institute Barcelona (IBMB – CSIC), Barcelona.
  • Miguel Ángel Peinado, Institute of Predictive and Personalized Medicine of Cancer (IMPPC), Barcelona.
  • Fernando Azorín, Molecular Biology Institute Barcelona (IBMB – CSIC),  Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona (IRB Barcelona),  Barcelona.
  • José Carlos Reyes, Andalusian Center for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine Centro (CABIMER – CSIC), Sevilla.
  • Gerardo López, University of Valencia, Valencia.

For further information or interviews: Laia Cendrós, Communication and Public Relations Dept., Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), C/ Dr. Aiguader, 88 – Edif. PRBB, 08003 Barcelona, Tel. 93 316 02 37.