UNC Program in Chromatin and Epigenetics Launches

The program aims to address the fundamental gaps in knowledge surrounding epigenetic regulation, with a long-term goal of developing novel therapeutic approaches towards treating human disease.

The program is centered around a highly collaborative and team science environment that has a dedicated goal of solving fundamental and challenging problems in chromatin biology – with an emphasis on developing novel approaches towards treating human disease. The large number of research faculty at UNC specializing in different areas of epigenetic research are optimally positioned to meet this challenge.

Faculty at UNC are focused on the basic mechanisms of epigenetic regulation using a variety of model organisms, high-throughput drug discovery efforts to target epigenetic machinery and clinical research that emphasizes epigenetic translational science employing the knowledge gained by basic research and drug discovery efforts. These researchers employ a range of cutting edge technologies, such as genomic and proteomic techniques, to address a vast number of epigenetic problems – and this research is supported by top-notch core facilities. The Chromatin and Epigenetics Program currently encompasses 34 faculty members, and participation of several laboratories from the National Institute of Environmental Health.

Along with the many resources and events associated with this new program, a highlight is the Chromatin and Epigenetics Certificate Program. Doctoral students interested in being formally part of the Program in Chromatin and Epigenetics can apply for entrance into a certificate program. The goal of this program is to provide students with more emphasis on epigenetic mechanisms and further exposure to approaches and techniques used in epigenetic research.

The leadership behind the program are director, Terry Magnuson, PhD, and co-director, Brian Strahl, PhD. Magnuson is a professor and chair of Genetics at UNC and the Executive Associate Dean for Research for the School of Medicine. Work in the Magnuson lab focuses on the role of mammalian genes in unique epigenetic phenomena such as genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation, stem cell pluripotency and the tumor suppressor role of chromatin remodeling complexes. Strahl is a professor and director of graduate studies of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC. The Strahl lab addresses how histone post-translational modifications, and the combinatorial codes they create, contribute to the structure and function of chromatin.