Nutritional genetics & epigenetics
Many studies attempt to define the main effects of either human genetic variation or nutrients on disease outcomes. Our research aims to take the next step, namely to understand how nutrients and genes act together in determining growth, development and disease. Our ultimate aim is to use this knowledge to inform the development of better interventions.
Changes in nutrient supply can have a profound influence on gene expression and genetic selection. Infectious diseases, especially malaria, have also influenced gene selection, and there is a strong interplay between nutrients and infections that is influenced by our genetic make-up. Our work in nutritional genetics examines these complex interactions as a means to understand the basic mechanisms of nutrient-mediated health outcomes, with a focus on the iron-infection axis.
There is also mounting evidence that diet can influence gene expression through its impact on the epigenome, with potential consequences for health throughout the life course. Our work in nutritional epigenetics examines the effect of nutrition on the epigenome, with a particular emphasis on the impact of maternal nutrition on offspring DNA methylation.
The Keneba Biobank in conjunction with the Demographic Surveillance System (DSS) forms a research platform for genetic studies involving the whole Kiang West Longitudinal Population Study (KWLPS) cohort, facilitating large-scale genotyping, fine-mapping, functional and recall-by-(epi)genotype studies.
Selected ongoing research areas: