Epigenetics and forget-me-nots

Epigenetics and forget-me-nots

I recently accompanied Tacita Nye, our Public Engagement Manager, to the Village Hall in Abington. We were there to give a talk to the 'Forget-me-not' Club, a wonderful group of 60 to 96 year olds that meet every Tuesday for some afternoon tea and intellectual stimulation in the form of an invited speaker. That week I was ‘it’. The venue was lovely and very well equipped, the organisers were charming, and the room quickly filled to capacity.

After Tacita introduced the Institute and the work carried out by the different groups, I had the slightly more daunting task of introducing the concept of Epigenetics.  We started our journey looking at different cells from different parts of the body, went on to discuss what are genes, where are they organised, how they can be switched on and off, the role of epigenetics in this process and why do we care.

The analogy between epigenetic marks, traffic lights and combination locks was received with nods and smiles, there were frequent interruptions with questions and everyone was very attentive and seemingly interested.

There was a very lively discussion at the end, particularly regarding possible epigenetic interventions in cancer and the aging processes, and even about the consequences of Brexit for science in the UK. The event seemed to be enjoyed by all.

It was difficult to leave such an interested and friendly audience. I have promised to go back.