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Professor Emma Whitelaw
Epigenetics is the study of mechanisms which modify DNA structure in subtle ways, and thus change gene expression, without influencing the DNA base sequence.
Characteristics like physical appearance and personality traits are commonly considered to be the result of interactions between genetic and environmental factors alone. However, genetically identical individuals, raised in similar environments, for example identical twins, show variation in some phenotypes. These variations may be the result of epigenetic differences between these individuals. At this stage, the research is best carried out using mouse models but, in the near future, Professor Whitelaw hopes to be able to study humans directly.
A successful grant application has resulted in the establishment of the Australian Centre for Cancer Epigenetics at the Institute. The centre has expanded the DNA sequencing and imaging capacities available at QIMR, not only in cancer research, but also for scientists working in other areas.
The laboratory has been developing a mouse model of fetal alcohol syndrome and anticipate that this will inform the community of the effects of maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
- Epigenetic modification and inheritance
- Epigenetic regulators of transgene expression
- Finding the genes involved in establishing and maintaining the epigenetic marks
Laboratory Head: Professor Emma Whitelaw
Postdoctoral staff: Dr Neil Youngson, Dr Lucia Clemens-Daxinger, Dr Alexander Combes, Dr Sarah Harten, Dr Harald Oey, Dr Trevor Epp, Dr Traute Flatscher-Bader
Research Assistants: Eleanor Lambley, Joanne Sutton
PhD students: Amity Roberts (Griffith University), Christine Zhang (UQ)
Masters student: Joan Yong (QUT)
Honours students: Cheng-Ta Huang (UQ), Chien Ho (UQ)
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the following funding agencies:
- National Health and Medical Research Council
- Australian Research Council
- Australian Cancer Research Foundation
- National Collaboration Research Infrastructure Scheme