One of the main challenges of 21st century biology is to describe the many factors controlling our genes – our ‘epigenetics’. Having sequenced the human genome in 1999, and the genomes of many other organisms since then, we already know what genes these organisms have, but we must now study where those genes are used, in which cell types, during which stage of development, and in response to what environmental factors. This ‘epigenetic’ knowledge is crucial to the understanding of development and disease.
Current models in this field can demonstrate that epigenetic information is passed through generations, but they cannot fully explain how the information is inherited. The ChromaPhy project studies the mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance. We combine novel techniques of chemical biology and live-cell imaging with those of molecular genetics, in the model organism Physarum polycephalum. Physarum has a unique ability to absorb whole proteins from its environment into its cellular physiology, making it ideal for our study. ChromaPhy brings together four research groups in Germany and France to support and enable the UK-trained researcher. Because chromatin components are some of the most highly conserved proteins in nature, discoveries we learn from Physarum polycephalum will be directly applicable to human biology.
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