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Destiny and DNA: Our Pliable Genome

Our genes strictly dictate our personalities, appearance and diseases. Or do they? Research has revealed that genes can turn on and off; they can be expressed for years and then silenced. Sometimes, they are never activated. And these genetic instructions—how and when DNA is read—can be determined by the experiences of one’s ancestors, even those several generations back. Epigenetics studies these instructions, the biological markers along our DNA that regulate gene expression in response to features like age or environment, and which can influence the traits we pass onto our children. Glimpse into the future with scientists at the forefront of this emerging field as they reveal the role our genetic markers play in steering our biological destiny.

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Moderator

Bill BlakemoreNews Correspondent

Bill Blakemore became a reporter for ABC News 46 years ago, covering a wide variety of stories. He spearheaded ABC’s coverage of global warming, traveling from the tropics to polar regions to report on its impacts, dangers, and possible remedies.

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Participants

Jean-Pierre IssaMolecular Biologist

Jean-Pierre Issa is a professor of medicine and director at Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University. Issa’s laboratory has made important contributions to the understanding of the importance of epigenetics in the pathophysiology and treatment of cancer.

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Frances A. ChampagneBehavioral Scientist

Frances A. Champagne is an associate professor in the department of psychology at Columbia University. Champagne received a master’s degree in psychiatry in 1999 and a doctoral degree in neuroscience in 2004 from McGill University.

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Randy L. JirtleGeneticist

Randy Jirtle headed the epigenetics and imprinting laboratory at Duke University until 2012. He is presently a visiting professor at McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jirtle’s research interests are in epigenetics, genomic imprinting, and the fetal origins of disease susceptibility.

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