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NIH Director's Awards go to 3 Johns Hopkins scientists
Date:9/20/2011

ions."

Andrew Feinberg's groundbreaking research involving non-DNA sequence-related heredity spans three decades; his early studies of epigenetic alterations of genes in human cancer were controversial. Because it involves the relationship between an individual's genetic background, the environment, aging and diseases such as cancer, epigenetics today is at the epicenter of modern medicine.

"I feel incredibly lucky to receive this award," Feinberg says. "It gives me the chance to test a unified theory I've been developing for understanding the relationship between normal development, epigenetics and evolutionary selection in a changing environment. I plan to test the model in ways I never could with regular grant funding, for example, by genetic and epigenetic analysis of honeybees, which show remarkable epigenetic plasticity that is environmentally sensitive, and a relatively small genome compared to other model organisms."

Based on the results of recently published research using the latest gene sequencing tools to examine epigenetic influences on the DNA makeup of colon cancer, Feinberg suggests that cancer treatment might eventually be more tolerable and successful if therapies could focus on helping cancer cells get back to normal in addition to strategies for killing them. His team focused on a particular epigenetic biochemical signature known as methylation, which silences genes. Although not part of a gene's central DNA sequence, it is copied when a cell divides, perpetuating its activity.

"The most exciting medical idea in epigenetics is that it might be possible to intervene at the junction between the genome and the environment, to modify the effects of deleterious genes, and to influence the effects of the environment on us, perhaps influencing aging or mastering tissue reprogramming in regenerative medicine," says Feinberg. "We're only just now really seeing how large its impact might be, and so it's remarkable to be
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Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik
myakutc1@jhmi.edu
443-287-2251
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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