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Germany and the UK collaborate to train the next generation of world-leading experts of epigenetics in single cells

 29 March 2019   Events

Leading experts in epigenetics and systems medicine will train students with computational, biological and medical backgrounds in the latest technological developments, experimental design and special computational challenges within single cell epigenetics research in a European collaboration.

Funded by BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Germany) the Berlin and London Joint School in Epigenetics in Single Cells is being organised by Nikolaus Rajewsky, Ana Pombo and Grietje Krabbe of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology at the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and Amanda Fisher, Matthias Merkenschlager, Petra Hajkova & Peter Norsworthy from the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS). Supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, this cutting-edge training program aims to educate the next generation of scientists in an emerging field and is a celebration of the long-standing collaboration between the two centres. The program will be held in Berlin from 3-6 April at the BIMSB building in Berlin Mitte and MDC Campus Buch, before participants travel to start the London leg of the program from 8-10 April held at the MRC LMS.

It is now widely understood that specific DNA sequences make our genes and it is these genes that provide instructions to make proteins. Epigenetics is the study of the biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off, how these genes are read in each cell of our bodies and whether the cells should make those relevant proteins. It is thanks to epigenetics that genes associated with muscle contraction are switched on in muscle cells, but not in skin cells, and vice versa.

Epigenetics is a relatively new field but already epigenetic mechanisms have been associated with a  wide variety of illnesses, behaviours and other health indicators including most types of cancer, cognitive dysfunction as well as respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, autoimmune and neurobehavioural illnesses. Currently epigenetic changes are mainly studied using samples that contain thousands of cells. But averaging the effects within a population of this many cells can mask any differences between individual cells. With recent technological advancements, such as microfluidics and barcode labelling, epigenetic profiles can now be analysed on a single cell level enabling an accurate understanding of the variation between cells in a population.

These approaches open the door to new avenues and perspectives for epigenetics which can ultimately be applied to clinically relevant fields such as regenerative medicine, cancer treatments and gene therapy technologies to name a few.

At this joint school students from both computational and experimental disciplines will be introduced to the emerging field of single cell biology, focusing on projects in genomic technologies and their practical applications in clinical sciences; such as those that can be used to classify a patient’s disease subtype, probability of drug resistance or disease prognosis. The organisers received applications from all over the world and selected candidates from Germany, the UK, other European countries and the USA. The interdisciplinary course will consist of alternating lectures, practical training, presentations, hands-on experimentation, computational training and scientific discussions, which will allow students to reflect and work on their own research and to support the effective integration of these approaches into their scientific activities. The Joint School will also provide a rare opportunity to build networks of international contacts for future local, national and international collaboration between different disciplines.

The Berlin instructors are:

Baris Tursun BIMSB
Nikolaos Karaiskos BIMSB
Jan Philipp Junker BIMSB
Stefanie Grosswendt BIMSB
Altuna Akalin BIMSB
Sascha Sauer BIMSB
Ana Pombo BIMSB
Dario Lupianez BIMSB
Scott Lacadie BIMSB
Mario Nicodemi University of Naples
Alexander Kukalev BIMSB
Warren Winick-Ng BIMSB
Nikolaus Rajewsky BIMSB

The London instructors are:

Amanda Fisher MRC LMS
Petra Hajkova MRC LMS
Gavin Kelsey Babraham Institute
Mikhail Spivakov MRC LMS
Boris Lenharde MRC LMS
Toby Warnecke MRC LMS
Matthias Merkenschlager MRC LMS
Luis Aragon MRC LMS
Enrique Martinez-Perez MRC LMS
Christian Speck MRC LMS
David Rueda MRC LMS
Samuel Marguerat MRC LMS
Chris Thompson University College London
Jonathan Chubb University College London
Neil Brockdorff University of Oxford
Ilan Davis University of Oxford

At the end of the London meeting there will be guest lecture by Austin Smith, University of Cambridge.

This will be the fourth scientific retreat between these two institutes at the forefront of innovative biomedical research in the last 9 years and reinforces how crucial international collaboration is to drive scientific advancement pulling on the expertise of individuals from around the globe. This course is a unique educational program from established and internationally renowned scientists to teach young scientists with a medical science background from Germany, the UK and wider international community and provides the opportunity to learn, network and discuss systems medicine research approaches and to empower them to apply the latest developments and technologies in their own research.