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Ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your Thinking about the Human Genome?

The human genome is routinely thought of as a static component of the cell, one that is subject to just two fates; to be inherited or to mutate. However, since the completion of the sequencing of the human genome, scientists have been exploring how the genome responds to environmental stressors and chemical exposure. It turns out the genome is much more dynamic than we thought. Genomes have the characteristic of plasticity, which makes it possible to adapt quickly in order to survive changes in environmental conditions.

Changes in the genome can have a big impact on human health. The Standing Committee on Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions has been exploring factors that influence human health in its workshop series. An earlier forum on Epigenetics looked at how genes are expressed and silenced in response to environment stressors. Mobile and evolving elements such as telomeres, transposons, and copy number variants are other important factors in understanding the potential effect of our environment on human health.

The Genomic Plasticity forum will look beyond random mutation and discuss the fundamental changes in genomic alterations that can contribute to disease and ageing, as well as new technologies and tools to identify and study genome plasticity events. The forum will initiate/foster the exploration of how environmental stressors may impact the genome, by exploring the intersection of mechanisms leading to genomic changes and mechanisms targeted by environmental stressors.