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Science and SocietyHeidelberg Forum

Prof. Susan M. Gasser

Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 18:00 in the Print Media Academy Kurfürstenanlage 52-60, Heidelberg

Mit freundlicher Unterstützung der Manfred Lautenschläger Stiftung

Susan M. Gasser, Director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research

 

German version

Epigenetics: Reality and biomedical potential

Abstract

The field of epigenetics seeks to explain how cell-type specific controls over gene expression are maintained during self renewal and differentiation and are altered by environmental events. The field covers of the biochemistry of genome organization, its expression, inheritance, as well as controls over translation, message stability and the relationship of all these with external signals. Epigenetics is now at an exciting stage, one comparable to the field of genetics before the elucidation of the structure of DNA and the genetic code. We know most of the players, but are still unclear as to how they work together to faithfully maintain gene expression states. As our understanding of epigenetic inheritance expands, the field intersects increasingly with fields focused on human health and disease. Epigenetic control addresses aspects of stem cell identification and maintenance and the modulation of cell fate, which are at the heart of degenerative disease and cancer. Moreover, from the study of chromatin and miRNA modifications, we can expect to identify targets, biomarkers and diagnostic tools relevant for biomedical application, as well as novel ways to treat human disease. This lecture will explore the current state of epigenetic research and the new medical opportunities that may be opened by the field of epigenetics.

Biography

Prof. Susan M. Gasser is the director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, a position she assumed in 2004. In addition, Susan Gasser was appointed to a professorship at the University of Basel. Her research activities are pursued at the Friedrich Miescher Institute.

Before joining the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Susan Gasser was a Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Geneva. For the preceding 15 years she had led a research group at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research.

Susan Gasser's research interests focus on how nuclear organization impinges on mechanisms of repair and replication fork stability and on epigenetic inheritance of cell fate decisions. Her laboratory combines genome-wide mapping, synthetic lethal screens, quantitative live fluorescence imaging, biochemical reconstitution and standard yeast molecular genetics to address these questions at the molecular and cellular levels. In questions of stem cell determination and epigenetic inheritance, the Gasser group works with C. elegans, to study the effects of nuclear organization on gene expression during well-characterized cell differentiation events. She has authored more than 250 primary articles and reviews over the last 30 years. She has received a number of awards for her work, including election to the Académie de France, the Swiss Medical Academy and Academia Europaea. She received the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award 2012, the Inserm International Prize in 2011, and both the Otto Naegeli Award and the Gregor Mendel Medal in 2006.

Susan M. Gasser studied at the University of Chicago (B.A. Honors in Biophysics) and at the University of Basel (PhD in Biochemistry). She did her postdoctoral studies with U.K. Laemmli at the University of Geneva.

Susan serves on numerous review boards and advisory councils throughout Switzerland and Europe including the European Union FP7 Health Sciences Advisory Board, the Nestlé Nutrition Council and from 2001-2004, as chairman of the EMBO Council.