Science 101 for Parents
How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing the Understanding of Heredity

Date: Thursday, April 28, 2011 Place: 1230 York Avenue at 66th Street
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m   Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
      The Rockefeller University
      New York City

Allis To fully appreciate how genes work, you need to know something about epigenetics—the study of chemical modifications that can dramatically alter the activity of a gene without making any change in its DNA. In recent years, scientists have identified an array of epigenetic phenomena that are integral to biological function and may play a role in health conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to autism.

One of the international leaders in the field of epigenetics is David Allis, a distinguished biochemist on the Rockefeller faculty who will present this year’s Science 101 for Parents lecture. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Wiley Prize in the Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Allis is noted for essential discoveries about DNA-bound proteins in the chromosomes that play a key role in the epigenetic regulation of genes.

Recent research has demonstrated that epigenetic changes can occur in rapid response to shifting environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, or stress. Studies have also shown that—contrary to all expectations—epigenetic modifications can be passed from one generation to the next. The child of a cigarette smoker, for example, could inherit epigenetic marks that reflect the parent’s level of exposure to tobacco. These sorts of epigenetic adaptations are lightning fast when compared to the glacial pace of classic evolutionary change.

The surprising revelations about environment’s impact on heredity are only part of the story. Research in epigenetics is also a great source of hope in biomedicine, holding significance for the understanding and treatment of many diseases. Discoveries David Allis made several years ago, for example, have already led to therapies for forms of leukemia that affect young people. Today, several biotech companies are developing experimental drugs that exploit epigenetic pathways. Many of these efforts focus on neurodegenerative diseases and infections, in addition to cancer.

Please join us on Thursday, April 28, to learn more about a rapidly advancing field that is revising our understanding of heredity and adding new dimensions to the study of evolution, with vital implications for medicine.

The Rockefeller University’s new president, distinguished neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne, will host this event. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne came to the University in March 2011 from the biotech firm Genentech, where he was vice president for research and chief scientific officer.

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Erika Layfield at (212) 327-7434 or

Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Parents & Science
Faculty Advisor

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.
Alfred E. Mirsky Professor
Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Parents & Science Leadership


Daniella Lipper Coules
Talbott Simonds

Steering Committee

Rebecca Anikstein
John Bernstein
Charles W. Caulkins
Karen de Saint Phalle
Blair Pillsbury Enders
Wendy Ettinger
Kathy Heinzelman
Tania Neild, Ph.D.
Ilona Nemeth
Marean Pompidou
Courtney Smith Rae
Loli Echavarria Roosevelt
Kimberly Kravis Schulhof
Roxy Zajac

Scientific Advisory Council

Evelyn Attia, M.D.
BJ Casey, Ph.D.
Myron Hofer, M.D.
Ilene Sackler Lefcourt
Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D.
Richard Nisbett, Ph.D.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

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