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Genetic Breakthroughs Honored With New Scientific Award

LOS ANGELES, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- A new prize has been announced in an emerging scientific field called "epigenetics," the study of how influences from outside the cell can activate genes. Called the Epigenetic Medicine Award, it honors a researcher or physician who has used the principles of epigenetics to produce a significant breakthrough in medical understanding. The inaugural recipient is Randy Jirtle, PhD of Duke University. Jirtle performed one of the earliest experiments in the field of epigenetics, showing how the suppression of a single gene in the brains of mice leads to dramatic reductions in cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Subsequent research has shown that stress, emotional trauma, maternal touch, and changes to the body's electromagnetic fields, can all trigger epigenetic signals -- sometimes with profound psychological and physical effects.

The award ceremony ( will occur at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California, on Thursday May 29, 2008. The ceremony is part of a two-day event highlighting the impact of emotional trauma and stress on physical health. It features therapies that show promise in changing epigenetic signals by reversing the effects of trauma. The award will be presented to Jirtle by Bruce Lipton, PhD, the author of the bestselling book, "The Biology of Belief," which introduced the concepts of epigenetics to a wide audience. The $5,000 award is sponsored by a nonprofit, Soul Medicine Institute, which engages in epigenetic research. Soul Medicine Institute has successfully applied the novel approaches of epigenetics to treating Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as treating people suffering from depression, anxiety, and pain.

The Executive Director of Soul Medicine Institute, Dawson Church, PhD, whose book "The Genie in Your Genes" describes the practical applications of epigenetics, believes the new award will highlight the importance of this science. Says Church, "We wanted to draw attention to the fact that while epigenetic influences affect particular genes, they can also affect whole groups of genes. In the stress response, the whole body is affected, including our immune system." Soul Medicine Institute's research focuses on methods of reducing stress, in order to provide a positive epigenetic environment for the body.

In subsequent years, the Epigenetic Medicine Award will be awarded annually by a committee of experts drawn from the many scientific institutions now studying epigenetics. The prize aims to highlight the practical applications of epigenetics, rather than theoretical science, and to emphasize the potential of therapies that use epigenetic approaches to improve health.

SOURCE Soul Medicine Institute
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