Faculty Development Program - Epigenetic Etiology of Human Diseases

Faculty Development Program Organized by Department of Medical Education An Invited Lecture Epigenetic Etiology of Human Diseases on 27 th May, 2023 at 3 to 4 pm. PANELIST Patron: Dr. Srinivasalu Reddy, Professor and Dean Speaker: Dr. Sivakumar Vijayaraghavalu, Associate Professor, Dept. of Life Sciences (Zoology), Manipur University (A Central University) & Adjunct Professor, IIT Madras, Chennai, TN, India. Convenor: Dr. Anandan Reddy, Professor and IQAC Director



The Faculty Development Program (FDP) commenced with a welcome address by Dr. Anandan Reddy, the Director of the Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC). He then invited the esteemed Principal of the Medical College to provide an introductory note on the topic.

Dr. Srinivasalu Reddy greeted and extended a warm welcome to the guest speaker, Dr. Sivakumar Vijayaraghavalu, as well as all the distinguished medical faculties and postgraduates in attendance. Following this, he began his presentation by discussing the origins of epigenetics, crediting Conrad Waddington for introducing the term. Dr. Reddy provided an overview of epigenetic modifications, episomes, gene expression, and drug resistance in bacteria. He emphasized that this field is incredibly intriguing. After concluding his introduction, Dr. Anandan Reddy introduced Dr. Sivakumar to the audience, highlighting his impressive curriculum vitae, which included his international experiences, Innovator Award, and notable achievements in India. Dr. Anandan Reddy then requested Dr. Sivakumar to deliver the lecture on the specified topic.

Dr. Sivakumar reciprocated the greetings from the Principal, medical college staff, and the convener,Dr. Anandan Reddy. He extended his regards to all the distinguished faculties and students present  and began his  talk  by providing a concise definition of epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in phenotype or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Continuing his presentation, he explained various epigenetic regulatory mechanisms, such as methylation, acetylation, miRNA, and long non-coding RNAs.

Dr. Sivakumar then delved into the concept of epigenetic imprinting, using the example of IGF-2 gene silencing and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome to illustrate imprinting defects. He highlighted that the prevalence of these defects is 18 times higher in in vitro fertilization (IVF) babies compared to their non-IVF counterparts. To support his points, he cited research papers that demonstrated epigenetic silencing of IGF-2, LIT-1, and H19. Additionally, he explained the epigenetic etiology underlying Prader-Willi syndrome and Angelman syndrome.

Moving on, Dr. Sivakumar provided a brief overview of the functioning of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), nuclear enzymes responsible for de novo methylation and maintenance of methylation during semiconservative replication. He also discussed the impact of maternal care on epigenetic changes in glucocorticoid receptors (GR), referencing a key research article titled “Epigenetic Correlates of Neonatal Contact in Humans.” He emphasized the influence of maternal care on child development. Supported by sufficient data, he explained the epigenetic etiology of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), citing the increased incidence of PTSD in New Yorkers following the 9/11 attack. Dr. Sivakumar also touched upon the effects of meditation on gene expression and epigenetics. He described an experiment conducted by Randy Jirtle and Robert Waterland, which involved feeding pregnant mice a methyl-rich diet and observed that the offspring, instead of inheriting the yellow coat color and predisposition to diabetes from their mother, were healthy and brown in color. This experiment demonstrated that DNA is not the sole determinant of destiny, as epigenetic modifications can be inherited.

Dr. Sivakumar further discussed the impact of diet during pregnancy, drawing data from the Dutch Hunger Winter study that examined the effects of famine on babies born during that period. He also explored the consequences of a protein-restricted diet, such as cortisol dysregulation due to silencing of glucocorticoid receptors. Furthermore, he explained the underlying epigenetic etiology of irritable bowel syndrome. The speaker referred to the Overkalix Parish study in Sweden, highlighting how the diet of paternal grandfathers and fathers during their slow growth periods influenced the lifespan of their progeny. He also mentioned the effects of the environment, drawing on twin studies to illustrate differences in gene expression among identical twins.

Additionally, he touched upon the impact of fungicides like Vinclozolin on sterility. Finally, Dr. Sivakumar elucidated the epigenetic etiology of cancer, covering initiation, promotion, progression, drug resistance, and metastasis. The medical professionals in attendance highly appreciated the presentation, and the subsequent question and answer session proved to be engaging and interactive. Following the talk, Dr. Anandan Reddy delivered the vote of thanks, and Dr. Narasimha Reddy, the Academic Coordinator, along with Dr. Srinivasalu Reddy, the Principal of the Medical College, felicitated the speaker.