During our Toxicology & Environmental Health Spring 2018 Seminar- taking place this Thursday, April 12th, from 11:45 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in Field Auditorium, on Duke’s West Campus- Caren Weinhouse, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Duke Global Health Institute, will present a talk entitled “Identifying mechanisms for toxicant-induced epigenetic change: towards ‘bench to community’ translation of environmental epigenetics.”
Please see below for her talk abstract and bio.
The field of environmental epigenetics emerged in the 2000s, based on evidence that environmental exposures are capable of impacting regulatory epigenetic marks, and subsequently triggering expression changes, with no change to the underlying genetic sequence. Currently, environmental epigenetics includes the study of social, chemical, and nutritional environmental influences on epigenetic control of gene transcription during different developmental time periods. Two dominant and related research foci in the field today are: (1) epigenetic biomarkers as mediators of the relationship between environmental exposures and resulting health outcomes; and (2) epigenetic responses as one mechanism underlying the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis, which states that early life exposures influence risk for adult disease. First, I will discuss my experimental research in viable yellow Agouti mice, focusing on empirical evidence for DOHaD in the context of bisphenol A exposure and on identification of environmentally labile loci termed “metastable epialleles.” Next, I will discuss translation of environmental epigenetics research to human populations with high methyl mercury exposure due to artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. I will highlight important considerations for environmental epigenetics research, including incorporation of genetic background and using a “systems biology” framework to incorporate crosstalk with other cellular compartments, including mitochondria. I will conclude with a conceptual framework for exploring mechanisms for toxicant-induced epigenetic responses, both on the bench and in the field.
Dr. Caren Weinhouse is a postdoctoral fellow at the Duke Global Health Institute. Her primary research focus is the delineation of mechanisms for adverse, adaptive or neutral epigenetic/epigenomic changes relevant to human health in response to environmental toxicant exposure in both laboratory model systems and epidemiological cohorts. Her secondary research interests include global environmental health, environmental epidemiology, and exposure assessment in environmental justice settings, including artisanal and small-scale gold mining regions. Caren received a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences and a MPH in Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, as well as invaluable continuing education from the extraordinary community of scientists and trainees at the Nicholas School of the Environment.