SYMER Project : A systems approach to new paradigms in metabolic and epigenetic regulation
Understanding how environment and lifestyle can affect metabolism and thus reprogram a person’s genetic heritage by epigenetic changes for potential transmission across generations
Cellular metabolism reflects not only our genetic disposition, but also our lifestyle and environmental exposures, including the presence of noxious substances like endocrine disruptors. SYMER mobilizes an international and interdisciplinary consortium within a systems biology approach to analyze altered metabolic profiles, and how they can leave an imprint on our genes in form of potentially inheritable epigenetic changes. These changes are suspected to fuel the rising threat of chronic diseases across generations.
A recent paradigm shift defines metabolism not only as a series of mass and energy conversions, but also as an information transducing mechanism.
“Information carrying” metabolites seem to play a central role for regulating epigenetics, the reprogramming of genetic information by chemical modification of DNA and histones, finally leading to altered gene expression. This new concept has important and far-reaching consequences for human society, since the general public now foresees, for the first time, the impact of the environment, life style, health and social conditions on the human genome, an effect that appears to be fuelled by changes in metabolism and that might impact several generations. In fact, the metabolism-epigenetic axis may well represent a missing link in many otherwise unrelated pathologies, including the global threat of rapidly spreading non-communicable chronic diseases, responsible of almost 90% of deaths in France.
To tackle these complex issues, the interdisciplinary SYMER consortium of experts within UGA and international centers of excellence are joining forces for a systems project. Its multi-scale experimental approach (cellular, animal, human, society) integrates different biological systems. Their analysis and interpretation will require the development of mathematical tools and predictive models, as well as a deep understanding of the societal and political implications and expectations in this emerging field.