The Epigenetics World Congress was held In Boston April 26-27, 2011 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers. This coincided with the RNAi & miRNA World Congress, Advances in qPCR and Next-Gen Sequencing Congress with all four tracks running in parallel. The Epigenetics track was highlighted by several keynote presentations covering topics such as Epigenetic Processes in Disease and Epigenetics, Epigenome-Wide Association Studies and Novel Discoveries in Gene Silencing.
The opening session, with a keynote presentation from Randy Jirtle, Director of Epigenetics and Imprinting Laboratory, Duke University, focused on Epigenetics, Imprinting, and Disease Susceptibility. Dr. Jirtle presented evidence indicating that susceptibility to disease can be linked to epigenetic changes driven by slight changes in environmental factors (i.e. nutritional intake and expose to toxins). Dr. Jirtle went on to discuss the link between adult onset disease and neurological disorders as a result of exposure to such factors during early development resulting in epigenetic changes in imprinted genes and metastable epialleles. The discussion then turned to the heritability of epigenetic imprinting and how the relationship between mono-allelic expression, in a parent-of-origin dependent manner, can complicate the understanding of a disease states. These changes are species dependent, as well as tissue, temporal, and sex, making correlation between species quite difficult. Several additional presentations followed this theme ranging from the epigenetics of disease specific models to evolutionary DNA methylation to biomarker development to elucidate or predict a diseased state. Other sessions included understanding the epigenetics of chromatin mechanisms, nuclear dynamics of chromatin and euchromatin, long-range control elements, and other regulatory mechanisms such as non-coding RNA and gene silencing, as well as the epigenetics of re-programming cells.
The presentations were well attended and informative with interspersed coffee breaks and poster sessions allowing for the opportunity to network with both speakers and poster presenters. The exhibit hall was adjacent to the session rooms where several dozen vendors displayed the latest data mining, PCR, genomics sequencing and epigenetic assay technologies. The exhibit hall was also home to the poster sessions, covering all Congress topics. The presentations and posters were largely academic in nature presenting many novel findings, much of which has not been published or is currently under review for publication. Overall the conference was very enlightening, providing plentiful food for thought regarding the importance of Epigenetics as an emerging scientific area that will require significant attention moving forward.
By, BioTek Instruments, Peter J. Brescia, Jr., MSc, Applications Scientist