February 1, 2023

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Genetics from Mendelian to future cancer therapies

From the famous first experiments on peas, conducted by Gregor Mendel, to future gene therapies against cancer and diabetes: these are the tremendous advances made by genetics, which have changed not only science, but also our society. “Genetics 200 years after Mendel’s birth: past, present and future” is dedicated to the topic at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei on December 6 and 7.

“Two hundred years ago, in 1822, Gregor Mendel was born, a figure of great importance to science but who unfortunately received much less exposure than he deserved,” explained Lincei academic Michele Morganti, Scientific Director of the Institute of Applied Genomics of the University of Udine and President of the Italian Genetic Society. His pioneering studies on pea crops laid the foundations for defining the laws of heredity, work that went unnoticed for several decades and which, however, laid the foundations for the birth of genetics. Just to remember the importance of the Habsburg biologist and mathematician, the Italian Genetic Society, the Italian Society of Agricultural Genetics and the Italian Society of Genetic and Environmental Mutagenesis organize a two-day meeting in Lincei to recapture Mendel’s main intuitions, birth genetics, basic goals achieved in recent decades and possible future developments.

“We have some big challenges ahead, first of all being able to understand more deeply how the genome works in a whole way. Today we know how to do it – added Morgante – but in an imperfect way, in the future, for example, we would like to understand in detail what strategies to use to fight cancer.” One of the goals will be to switch from treatments with chemotherapy, which counteract the effects, to gene therapies, which eliminate cancer in the first place, or fight genetic diseases due to a combination of different genes, from diabetes to heart disease or neurodegenerative diseases.

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