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International epigenetics experts in Neuherberg

The first “Chromatin and Epigenetics: From Mechanism to Function” meeting took place on the Helmholtz Zentrum München campus in Neuherberg from April 5th – 7th 2017. The international meeting saw a wealth of high profile, international scientists present cutting edge research in the field of epigenetics and chromatin biology. The keynote lecture was given by Nobel Prize laureate Professor Sir John Gurdon.

from left: Maria Elena Torres-Padilla, Sir John Gurdon, Robert Schneider. Photo: HMGU

This first meeting in a biennial series was organized by Institute Directors Maria Elena Torres-Padilla (Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells, IES) and Robert Schneider (Institute of Functional Epigenetics, IFE), together with Abcam, and brought researchers from around the world to the Neuherberg campus for a dynamic and interactive meeting and extensive discussions. Focusing on the latest developments in chromatin dynamics, modifications of histones, DNA and RNA, as well as single cell approaches and environment-genome interactions, the meeting provided an invigorating platform for scientific exchange.

The aim of the meeting was to inspire members of the international community to share their work and discuss the latest advances in epigenetics and stem cell research.  Conference organizers Maria Elena Torres-Padilla and Robert Schneider were delighted with the response to the meeting, with registration filling up long before the deadline. “We are thrilled to have brought together so many leading experts in epigenetics and chromatin biology in one place, discussing their research as a global community” said Professor Torres-Padilla. “This meeting is one of the activities we are excited to launch centered on epigenetics research at Helmholtz Zentrum München. We look forward to the next epigenetics@helmholtz activities and seeing where the research goes, it’s a very exciting time for the field!” added Professor Schneider.

The keynote lecture was given by Sir John Gurdon from the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge.  Professor Gurdon is famous for his work on reprogramming of mature cells to totipotency, the discovery of which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2012. His highly anticipated lecture was entitled “The mode of action of transcription factors in oocytes” and triggered many interesting discussions on the latest findings in the field. 

In addition to oral presentations, two poster sessions gave researchers, including PhD students and postdocs, the opportunity to present their work to a global audience and were very well attended. Furthermore, five editors from top journals, from Nature Press and EMBO Press and The Company of Biologists, were also onsite for the duration of the meeting. The conference dinner and an evening event further promoted scientific and social interactions, establishing important networks within the global community. Set to take place every two years, the scientists are already looking forward to the next meeting in this series and following the process of this ever advancing and high impact field.

Further information

The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich and has about 2,300 staff members. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. 

The research of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells (IES) is focused on the characterization of early events in mammalian embryos. The scientists are especially interested in the totipotency of cells which is lost during development. Moreover, they want to elucidate who this loss is caused by changes in the nucleus. Their main goal is to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms which might lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches. 

The Institute for Functional Epigenetics (IFE) is concerned with the packaging of genes. The focus is on the so-called "histone proteins" on which the DNA strands are wound and which can determine whether a gene can be read or not. In addition, the scientists are examining the connections between common diseases and distortions in DNA packing. Cutting edge methods have enabled them to follow changes of these processes even in individual cells.