Epigenetics and ethics

April 12, 2013

It is a well established truth that not all of our genes are switched on in all of our cells all of the time. A fundamental role in the control of gene expression is played by transcription factors encoded within the DNA itself. In addition to this, however, there is now increasing recognition of the importance of an additional layer of genetic modification over and above the sequence of A,C,G&T letters in genome.

The epigenetics teaching resources have been developed by Lyndsey Wright as part of the public engagement with science component of her PhD (funded by the BBSRC)

The epigenetics teaching resources have been developed by Lyndsey Wright during the public engagement with science component of her PhD (funded by the BBSRC)

This “epigenetic” regulation can be influenced by environmental factors and hence questions about the ethical significance of epigenetics are emerging. Two different resources for looking at these bioethical dimension of epigenetics have recently been launched.

Firstly, PhD student Lyndsey Wright has taken the lead in the developed a series of resources on epigenetics and ethics which can be used with A-level students and undergraduates.

Four case studies are included on:

The resource, which is part of the wider Virtual Genetics Education Centre, includes teachers’ notes, student worksheets and PowerPoint presentations as well as links to further reading.

The second new resource is a video on the science and ethics of epigenetics.

The video includes consideration of Jesus and his (fictional) twin Joshua

The video includes consideration of Jesus and his (fictional) twin Joshua

This film was made by second year undergraduates at Leicester as an assessed piece of work. The video includes interviews with a number of scientists who are researching aspects of epigenetics, including the role of genetic modification in altering the expression of genes in cancerous cells.

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Model Organisms in Biomedical Research

September 8, 2011

We have recently published the latest of our videos on bioethics. The subject this time is the use of model organisms in biomedical research (it last six and a half minutes). I am particularly please about this one as it is the first of two main films that have been at the core of a project supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (the other film, due for completion shortly, is on Comparative Genomics).

For reasons I needn’t go into these videos have had longer gestation than a baby elephant but we are very pleased with the outcome and hope you will agree that they have been worth the wait. In the fullness of time there will also be some structured suggestions for how to use these videos in a teaching context.

Production of the two main videos has resulted in the release of seven further films as side-product of the project. These have been previously mentioned on this site, see here for a list.