SMASHED ON SCIENCE
The debut of the ‘Pint of Science‘ festival recently took over Exeter pubs, and Exeposé Science and Tech are here to give you the best bits, and fill you in on what you may have missed.
Catherine Heffner provides a short snippet from the presentation “The Epigenome, Epilepsy and the Brain” , hosted by Dr. Marc Goodfellow and Dr. Therese Murphy at Oddfellows.
A WHOLE evening of ‘The Epigenome, Epilepsy and the Brain’ – my nerdy little heart beat that bit faster at the prospect. Dr Goodfellow began the evening by describing his work into mathematical applications in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Despite it’s prevalence, epilepsy is widely misdiagnosed in general practice. Moreover, standard treatments have proved ineffective for a third of sufferers thus far. Using mathematical models of neural networks, their team is investigating ways of personalising treatment and increasing the accuracy of diagnosis.
The following talks described the glories of epigenetics and its influence in twin development. The epigenome is a true game changer of the nature vs. nurture debate. It alters the ways in which genes are expressed through
chemical modifications to the DNA, often with dramatic consequences. In her talk, Dr Therese Murphy compared
epigenetics to the expressive notations musicians write over a score of music. Stylistic changes in volume and pace can drastically affect the feel of a piece, even though its notes and form stay the same. Epigenetics relates to
genetics in much the same way. It is thought that these changes are not inherited in the same way that your genome is but are influenced by environmental factors.
This can be seen in the differences between identical twins. Although monozygotic twins (which develop from the same egg) share the same genetic information,
research has shown that their epigenomes develop differently over the course of their lives, due to exposure to different environmental influences. As such, twins develop
increasingly divergent traits, despite the fact that they are essentially biological clones.
Epigenetics is currently attracting agreat deal of attention in research into many
disorders and diseases, ranging from the physiological to the psychological. For instance, Dr Murphy’s research is
focussed on the role of epigenetics in psychological disorders such as depression and suicide.
With further research, it is hoped that epigenetics will begin to fill some of the well-established gaps in our
understanding of inheritance.
Catherine Heffner, Science and Tech Print Editor