Lecture to discuss insights into genes and neurodegenerative diseases gleaned from baker's yeast

Insights into our genes and neurodegenerative diseases gleaned from humble baker's yeast, among other things, will be showcased by genetics experts at a free public lecture.

GENIE (Department of Genetics), the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Genetics, are hosting the 5th in their series of Public Engagement Lectures on Tuesday 9 October. The lectures are designed to make genetics more accessible by engaging the public in debating topical issues, promoting further dialogue and providing scientists an opportunity to reach them. 

The speakers this time will be Professor Rhona Borts and Dr Flaviano Giorgini from the University's Department of Genetics. Their double-bill of lectures takes place in the Frank and Katherine May Lecture Theatre, Henry Wellcome Building at the University of Leicester from 6.30pm, and is free and open to the public.

Professor Borts' talk 'Sex and the single yeast' will focus on the role of yeast in modelling the genome.

The ordinary baking and brewer's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae is a wonderful "model" organism for studying many basic biologic processes that are common from microorganisms to man. This is because many important genes have been conserved throughout the entire evolutionary distance between yeast and man.

This lecture will focus on the roles a particular group of genes called mismatch repair genes play in such diverse processes as the prevention of cancer, the formation of gametes and the generation of diversity. The work discussed will demonstrate how basic curiosity driven science can lead to important insights for human diseases

In the second of the double-bill, Dr Flaviano Giorgini, Lecturer in Mammalian Genetics, will talk on 'Targeting genes for therapy in neurodegenerative disease'.

Dr Giorgini's research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.

His research team is particularly interested in understanding how genes can influence brain or neurodegenerative disease - disorders in which neurons no longer function correctly or die.  The research is focused primarily on two such disorders, Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease, both of which are fatal and can be due to mutations in genes.

They are using simple organisms such as baker's yeast and fruit flies to better understand how particular genes can affect "symptoms" of disease. They have identified several genes that improve disease symptoms in these organisms and in addition, they have found several chemicals to target these genes which could ultimately be developed into drugs for treatment of these devastating disorders.

Dr Aneela Majid, a co-organiser of the event, said: "This is a great opportunity for the public to hear from geneticists at the cutting edge of their field.

"Public engagement is becoming more and more important. Not only does it allow us to enrich the University's brand and identity, it also gives us, as scientists, the potential to reach out and build trust and understanding with local communities.  By increasing public appreciation for higher education and research we can keep abreast of public concern and expectations.  It also gives us an opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists. 

"Feedback from previous events have shown that there is an appetite for forums such as this to promote two-way discussion between scientists and the public."


University of Leicester



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