Epigenetics: The Merger of Nature and Nurture

Monday, May 7, doors at 5 pm, talk from 7-9 pm

Bagdad Theater, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland

Get there early if you want a seat (trust me!)

Can genes learn by experience?

Every cell in your body has the same set of genes, but they don’t work in every cell in the same way. For example, your tongue cells don’t grow hair and the cells in your eye don’t digest food. Your cells are programmed to modify genes based on their function in the body, and some of those modifications occur in response to the environment: genes that cause the production of pigment in your skin are activated when your skin is exposed to sunlight, and genes that caused your fingers and toes to develop before you were born are inactivated for the rest of your life.

It has been thought that only mutations in the DNA could be passed on to the next generation and that traits acquired during a parent’s life are not passed to their offspring (e.g., weight lifters don’t produce babies with big muscles). However, recent research suggests that some genetic changes that happen over a lifetime are heritable. That is, while it may be true that “you are what you eat,” it may also be true that “you are what your mother ate.”

Epigenetics is the study of genetic changes that are based on mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA and it is changing the way scientists look at disease risk and treatment. At this Science Pub, come find out about new discoveries in genetics and how they might affect you or your kids.

Lisa Sardinia, PhD, JD, is associate professor of biology at Pacific University and associate director of the Pacific Institute for Ethics and Social Policy.

Note: This is a repeat of the Science Pub held at the Mission Theater on Tuesday, August 16, 2011.