VANCOUVER, OCTOBER 21. The 2016 Gruber Genetics Prize was awarded today to molecular biologists Michael Grunstein, Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and C. David Allis, Ph.D., of The Rockefeller University at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada. These two renowned scientists received this prestigious award for their groundbreaking work in identifying the critical role of histones and histone modifications in regulating gene activity. In addition, the ASG’s Arno Motulsky-Barton Childs Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education was presented to David Valle (photo), M.D., and the Society’s inaugural Mentorship Award was presented to Elaine Zackai, M.D. Gruber prize winners Dr. Grunstein and Dr. Allis transformed the field of molecular biology and were instrumental in launching the modern study of histones in epigenetics, with broad implications for human health and disease. “These two remarkable scientists showed us that genetic coding is not determined solely by our inherited DNA, but also by a direct interaction between that DNA and histones, the proteins in cell nuclei around which DNA is tightly bound,” says Huda Zoghbi, M.D., Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Baylor College of Medicine and chair of the Selection Advisory Board to the Gruber Genetics Prize. “Not only has this work profoundly changed our understanding of gene regulation, but it has also greatly advanced our knowledge of medical conditions as varied as birth defects, heart disease, and cancer.” For many years, histones were considered nothing more than the material that “packages” DNA into structures called nucleosomes, which are the building blocks of the chromatin complex that form chromosomes within the nucleus of eukaryotic cells. In the late 1980s, Dr.
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