Saint Helena Virtual Forum
Epigenetics and Gender
How Your Behaviors And Environment Can Cause Changes That Affect The Way Your Genes Work
How can a single fertilized egg give rise to a complex organism with varied cells? The answers may be found in epigenetics… the study of how cells control gene activity by reading, but not changing the DNA sequence.
To explore this topic in language the layman can understand, our guest to the Forum was Dr. Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a structural biologist working in epigenetics at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Dr. Sanbonmatsu earned her PhD in astro-physical sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, and then joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory. There she became interested in…”what distinguishes life from matter.” The Sanbonmatsu Laboratory was established in 2001 as the field of epigenetics was beginning to develop. Karissa realized that RNA could be involved in how genes are turned on and off and since that time she has been a leading figure on the mechanisms of long non-coding RNA complexes. These are functional RNA molecules that don't translate into proteins, rather they play vital roles in cellular processes. Of particular interest to the Forum, as our first symposium Gender Matters was canceled in 2020 by Covid, Karissa has also written about gynandromorphism, an organism that contains both male and female characteristics, how DNA influences hormones, but also how hormones can reprogram DNA.