At some point before, during or after egg meets sperm, epigenetic marks such as those used for imprinting must be reset and re-established, so that a gene passed from father to daughter to son is appropriately marked, for example. Knowing how and when this happens, and whether the process can be controlled, has important implications for understanding human development and the viability of animals and stem cells created through somatic cell nuclear transfer, a process colloquially known as "cloning."
As part of the center, Feinberg and his colleagues will also implement a "minority action plan" to encourage racial and ethnic minorities to pursue education and careers in genetics and genomics. The plan offers select local students the chance to conduct genetics and genomics research during their summer breaks, and Feinberg will work with staff at the Center for Talented Youth (CTY), a Johns Hopkins endeavor with sites across the country, to add a genomics component to the program's summer classes. Starting in 2005, the Epigenetics Center will fund four minority students each year to attend these classes.
"The idea is to groom an interest in science and in genomics from a young age, hopefully increasing the number of minorities who pursue education and careers in genome sciences," says Feinberg.
Others closely involved with the center's work are Karl Broman and Margaret Fallin, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; James Potash, Hengmi Cui, Patrick Onyango, J. Raymond DePaulo, Hans Bjornsson, David Nichols and Jef Boeke of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Kurt Berlin, Epigenomics AG; Vilmundur Gudnason, Icelandic Heart Foundation; We
Contact: Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions