Safa Mohanna is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Isabelle M. Mansuy at the Brain Research Institute at the University Zürich (UZH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH Zürich). He holds an M.Sc. in life science and technology from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Mr. Mohanna is interested in the molecular mechanisms of memory formation and in the potential implications of a better understanding of these mechanisms to clinical practice. His current research focuses on the role of a novel memory-associated protein in learning, memory, and synaptic plasticity. He investigates the potential interaction between this novel protein and epigenetic mechanisms, and its implication in brain diseases characterized by memory deficits, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Epigenetics and the Human BrainWhere Nurture Meets Nature
While our genetic code determines a great deal of who and what we are, it does not act alone. It depends heavily on the epigenome, an elaborate marking of the DNA that controls the genome’s functions. Because it is sensitive to the environment, the epigenome is a powerful link and relay between our genes and our surroundings. Epigenetic marks drive biological functions and features as diverse as memory, development, and disease susceptibility; thus, the nurture aspect of the nature/nurture interaction makes essential contributions to our body and behaviors. As scientists have learned more about how the epigenome works, they have begun to develop therapies that may lead to new approaches to treating common human conditions.