Research

A Convergent Code

Faculty members are converging around the field of epigenetics to treat genetic diseases.

Strahl and Pattenden pose together on campus.

Faculty members are converging around the field of epigenetics to treat genetic diseases.

The growing field of epigenetics holds the promise of future treatments for those facing cancer and rare diseases. Yet at the University, it’s not just the breakthrough potential of the field itself that’s exciting. It’s also how researchers from different departments are teaming up to push the science further and faster than they could do alone.

Brian Strahl, interim chair and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the School of Medicine, and Samantha Pattenden, associate professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, are combining their expertise in chemical biology and epigenetics through a collaboration known as the Chemical Epigenomics Hub. Their common goal: identify, develop and apply chemical tools to better understand epigenetic processes, ultimately improving the treatment of human disease.

“The idea of convergent science, where we can have all these different fields coming together to be efficient with a project, is a great concept. It’s something we just naturally do here at UNC,” said Pattenden.

Strahl’s and Pattenden’s research is focused on rewriting faulty instructions by delivering chemical compounds to our genome — to treat genetic diseases without changing the DNA itself.

Their epigenetic hub is receiving support from the Institute for Convergent Science, which is operating in a pilot phase through a partnership between the College of Arts & Sciences, UNC Research, Innovate Carolina and other campus units.

With the work of the Chemical Epigenomics Hub, Strahl and Pattenden hope to eventually create a world-renowned Chemical Epigenomics Center at Carolina.

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