The Emerging Science of Epigentics: How Environmental Exposures Today May Affect Our Future Generations

December 4, 2013
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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On this call, Washington State University researcher Dr. Michael Skinner discussed new findings in epigenetics, the field of study which looks at how environmental factors can affect the way genes are expressed—and how those traits can be passed down from one generation to the next. For example, a new study from WSU’s Center for Reproductive Biology suggests a link between exposure to the insecticide DDT (a chemical banned for more than 30 years) and obesity. Researchers exposed pregnant rats to low levels of DDT and studied how the chemical affected successive generations of their offspring. They found that the third generation of offspring—the great-grandchildren of the exposed rats—had much higher rates of obesity than their ancestors. Other industrial chemicals are now known to have multigenerational effects. What preventive measures can we take and how can we address this collectively through policy changes?

Featured Speaker

Michael Skinner, PhD, is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University. He has been on the faculty of Vanderbilt University and the University of California at San Francisco.  Dr. Skinner’s research focuses on the investigation of how different cell types in a tissue interact and communicate to regulate gonadal growth and differentiation, with emphasis in the area of reproductive biology. Recent studies have elucidated several critical events in the initiation of male sex differentiation, testis development and ovarian primordial follicle development. His current research has demonstrated the ability of endocrine disruptors to promote transgenerational epigenetic disease phenotypes due to abnormal germ line programming in gonadal development. Dr. Skinner has over 200 peer-reviewed publications and has given over 180 invited symposia, plenary lectures and university seminars. He completed his doctorate in biochemistry at Washington State University and his postdoctoral fellowship at the C.H. Best Institute at the University of Toronto. 

This call was presented by ACAT’s Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK).