Expert to discuss gene-editing research at free public lecture

A leading expert will be discussing the latest breakthroughs in gene-editing research during this year’s Frank May Prize lecture on 31 October.

The lecture, delivered by Dr Shaun Cowley (pictured) from the University’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, is free and open to the public and will present his latest research on gene regulation, examining how and why our bodies decide which genes should be switched on and which should be switched off in order to function correctly. 

Dr Cowley and his team has spent the last nine years researching a family of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDACs) which chemically modify histones - a type of protein - tightening their grip around genes, and thereby switching them off. The team’s research has shown that HDAC1 and 2 are essential for embryonic stem cells to grow and to differentiate into other tissue types, such as cardiac cells. 

They have also found a role for HDAC1 and 2 in the generation of T-cells, a type of white blood cell necessary for fighting infection. 

Dr Cowley said: “HDAC enzymes also represent an exciting medical opportunity because they are 'druggable'.  Already, drugs which inhibit HDAC activity are being used in the clinic as anti-cancer agents, and are being further developed for their beneficial effects on dementia and anti-inflammatory properties.  There is therefore a compelling applied as well as academic motivation for studying their function.”

The Frank May Prize was endowed by Dr Frank May MBE. The prize is based on evidence of research excellence during the previous two years and evidence of outstanding promise for the future. It is awarded in competition in the University of Leicester College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology.

Dr Cowley will give the Frank May Prize lecture, entitled ‘How to package your DNA: histones and the key to gene regulation’, on Monday 31 October at 5.30pm at the The Frank and Katherine May Lecture Theatre, Henry Wellcome Building, Lancaster Road. The event will be followed by a drinks reception in the foyer after the lecture.