Epigenetic changes modify the way genetic information is expressed without directly changing the genetic code stored in DNA. Although some epigenetic changes are part of normal development and aging, environmental health scientists are most concerned with understanding how environmental factors can cause epigenetic changes that lead to health problems or disease.
Epigenetic changes likely play an important role in development and are thought to be involved in a wide range of diseases and disorders, including autoimmune and neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Scientists funded through a variety of NIEHS research programs are working to better understand the link between the environmental exposures and epigenetic regulation of gene expression and how these interactions may affect human health and disease.
NIEHS-funded researchers are using state-of-the-art technologies to analyze epigenetic changes caused by environmental exposures to heavy metals, air pollution, tobacco smoke, endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A, pesticides, phthalates, and other contaminants. They use animals, cell cultures, human tissue samples, and population-based studies to pinpoint how epigenetic changes might lead to harmful health effects, which could perhaps be passed on to future generations.
Epigenetics and Epigenomics Research Programs
Combined efforts in epigenetics and epigenomics research may profoundly alter the way we understand, diagnose, and treat disease by enhancing our understanding of the influence of environmental factors on epigenetic processes and their subsequent involvement in human health and disease.
The NIEHS-funded Transgenerational Inheritance in Mammals After Environmental Exposure (TIME) program supports research on the potential effects of environmental exposures on future generations.
The Toxicant Exposures and Responses by Genomic and Epigenomic Regulators of Transcription (TaRGET) Program supports research that aims to increase our understanding of how exposures affect and interact with functional and regulatory processes that lead to certain patterns of epigenetic changes. NIEHS and the National Institute on Drug Abuse jointly fund the TaRGET Program.
The Roadmap Epigenomics Program is a trans-NIH program funded by the NIH Common Fund, which is administered by NIEHS and other NIH Institutes and Centers, to investigate epigenetic changes across genomes and to correlate the presence or absence of specific changes with the development of disease.
For additional information on what NIEHS epigenetics grantees are doing, visit our Who We Fund page.
Program Lead for Transgenerational Inheritance (TIME) and Epigenetic Epidemiology
Program Lead for TaRGET, Animal, Basic, and Mechanistic Research
Fred Tyson, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Tel (919) 541-0176
Fax (919) 564-5064
Program Lead for Gene-Environment Interactions Research
Kimberly McAllister, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop K3-12
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Delivery | Postal
Tel (919) 541-4528
Fax (919) 316-4606