Over the past two decades it has become evident that there is another layer of information that sits “above” DNA-encoded genetic information in humans and other complex organisms. This information, termed “epi”genetic information, is embedded in the chemical modification of DNA and the histone proteins around which it is wrapped.
Epigenetic information determines the structure of DNA, that is how DNA is organised in the cell, which in turn determines which genes or noncoding RNAs are expressed and control normal development. Unlike genomic information epigenetic changes are also potentially influenced by environmental factors, especially during early development and can then be somatically inherited between cell generations leading to increased disease susceptibility.
The importance of epigenetics in normal development and in many disease states, including cancer, is well established but understanding the biology of DNA methylation and chromatin remodelling and the role of noncoding RNA in gene control is still in its infancy. The Clark Lab has the capability and developed high throughput sequencing tools required “to unravel the epigenome” and are now developing more sophisticated bioinformatics and capability to build and interpret reference epigenome maps of normal and diseased cells to both understand epigenome biology and address how this impacts on disease states.
The main aims of the Clark Epigenetics Research Laboratory are 1) Basic Research to elucidate how the pattern of spatial and temporal epigenetic processes control normal cell control, and how disruption of these processes contributes primarily to prostate and breast cancer and other diseases, including diabetes and obesity; 2) Translational research to mediate the translation of this knowledge into the clinical setting to improve health outcomes, through development of epigenetic-based biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets; and 3) Training to foster opportunities for talented laboratory and bioinformatic researchers to build their careers in epigenomic research in Australia.
Watch our videos to learn more about our epigenetics research:
This is the first in a series of four sketch videos about epigenetics, created by Armando Hasudungan in collaboration with Professor Susan Clark and Dr Kate Patterson here at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
This animation by Dr Kate Patterson shows how tiny tags called methyl groups can be added to DNA to affect gene expression. In cancer the pattern of methylation changes, such that some genes that should be on are switched off and some genes that should be off are switched on. Unlike the genetic code that can not be easily changed, the methylation or epigenetic pattern can be altered with drug therapy.
In the News
How some breast cancers become resistant to hormone therapy - Jul 15, 2015
Professor Susan Clark elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science - May 25, 2015
Students Receive Awards at 2015 Lorne Genome Conference - Feb 25, 2015
Saul Bert Awarded 2014 Garvan Thesis Prize - Feb 19, 2015
Epigenetic signatures that differentiate triple-negative breast cancers - Feb 02, 2015
Garvan receives $15.5 million in NHMRC funding round - Oct 25, 2013
New hope for hormone resistant breast cancer - Jul 23, 2013
Cancer study overturns current thinking about gene activation - Dec 14, 2012
Enhancing prostate cancer prognosis at the micro level - Aug 07, 2012
Four organisations use epigenetics to beat obesity - Jul 25, 2012
Rotary awards Garvan epigeneticist in 2012 - Mar 28, 2012
Potential for earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer - Jan 24, 2012
There is no such thing as identical where twins are concerned - Oct 12, 2011
Seminal shift in how we view cancer development - Jul 26, 2011
How we can better ‘mine’ our genome for information - Nov 04, 2010
What it might take to unravel the ‘lean mean machine’ that is cancer - Feb 22, 2010
Epigenetics featured in NHMRC ‘Ten of the Best Research Projects 2009’ - Aug 18, 2009
A step towards finding the cancer switch - Jun 17, 2009
New Australian Epigenome Alliance moves towards a Brave New World - Aug 23, 2008
Garvan cancer researcher wins Premier's Award - Jun 19, 2008
Cancer genetics to combine forces with nanotechnology to fight breast cancer - Oct 05, 2007