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Summer School on Epigenetics - Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects

Summer School on Epigenetics - Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects
Project team:König, Harald (Project leader); Reinhard Heil (Project coordination), Stefanie Seitz, Jürgen Robienski (Hannover Medical School)
Funding:Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Start date:2013
End date:2015
Research area:Innovation processes and impacts of technology

Project description

The purpose of this project was the implementation of the BMBF summer school on the ethical, legal, and social aspects of epigenetics. Epigenetics analyzes inheritable changes of the activity of genes that are not based on genetic code differences (i. e. base sequence) of the genetic DNA material. Such changes can be induced also by external influences, thus, the activities of the genes can change and, consequently, the features of an individual (human, animal, plant, unicellular organism). Nutrition, behavior, and environment can crucially influence the development of features and behavior. In this way, susceptibility to diseases, especially to the major common diseases (e.g. cancer, obesity) and mental disorders as well as sensitivity towards environmental toxins can partially be attributed to epigenetic effects. Within the last two decades, it became clear that the environment could not only influence the gene expression of the present generation but also that the epigenetic change caused, could be inherited in certain cases. With other words: The life circumstances (e.g. malnutrition) and behavior (e.g. smoking, stress) of the parents, and even the one of the grandparents, could through epigenetic mechanisms influence the children’s biological development and the one of their offspring. Therefore, the question on the epigenetic consequences could become a major decision making maxim regarding a variety of societal acting options.

The summer school was held from 15 to 21 September 2013 in Karlsruhe at ITAS. The results of the summer school were published in German and English in two anthologies.

Heil, R.; Seitz, S.B.; König, H.; Robienski, J. (Hrsg.)
Epigenetics - Ethical, legal and social aspects. Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2017, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-14460-9

Heil, R.; Seitz, S.B.; König, H.; Robienski, J. (Hrsg.)
Epigenetik - Ethische, rechtliche und soziale Aspekte. Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2016, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-10037-7

Project publications


Reinhard Heil
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26815