2018 - Dr. Azim Surani

The Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) is delighted to host this year's Canada Gairdner International Award recipient Dr. Azim Surani. Dr. Surani was awarded the 2018 Canada Gairdner International Award "for the discovery of mammalian genomic imprinting that causes parent-of-origin specific gene expression and its consequences for development and disease".

ARRTI invites all interested parties to our symposium on RNA and Epigenetics on Friday, October 19.

The Symposium will begin with Dr. Azim Surani's keynote lecture titled:

"From genomic imprinting to the human germline"

The Work:

Together, the work of Dr. Davor Solter and Dr. Surani contributed to the understanding of the developmental consequences and molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting. In 1984, they released parallel studies that demonstrated the concept of genomic imprinting. All cells in the animal contain two copies of every autosomal gene, one from the mother and one from the father, and in most cases both copies are expressed. However, “imprinted” genes are expressed only from either the maternally or the paternally inherited copy. Genomic imprinting has widespread roles in mammals, affecting embryonic and placental development and transmission of nutrients to the fetus, and regulating critical aspects of mammalian physiology, such as metabolism, neuronal development and adult behaviour. Extensive research based on this discovery led to the identification of numerous imprinted genes whose alleles are differentially expressed depending on the parent of origin.

The Impact:

Faulty imprints can lead to developmental, physiological and behavioural anomalies in mice, and result in diseases in humans. There is growing evidence for the importance of imprinting in disease susceptibility from developmental syndromes like Beckwith-Wiedemann, Angelman and Prader-Willi, to a variety of cancers and neurological disorders and obesity. It also has effects on diverse aspects of mammalian development and physiology, such as stem cells, core body temperature, nutrition and behaviour. Their work is one of the key discoveries that started the field of epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene function without changes in the DNA sequence.