Dr Youngson’s main scientific interest has been in non-Mendelian mechanisms of phenotype transmission in mammals and the evolutionary and health implications of these phenomena. He completed his PhD with Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith at Cambridge University U.K. in 2005. From 2006-2012 he did research in the group of Professor Emma Whitelaw at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane. In both of these laboratories Dr Youngson worked on mouse models of non-genetic inheritance, making discoveries in how epigenetic molecules can be inherited between generations to influence the phenotype of offspring. With his move to UNSW in 2012 to the lab of Professor Margaret Morris his expertise is now being applied to rodent models of human disease, in particular obesity. It has long been known that whether an individual develops obesity or not is due to complex interactions between the environment (such as diet and exercise) and the genome. However, recent evidence from the Morris Laboratory in the School of Medical Sciences, and others has shown that the life-time experiences of an individual’s mother and father also influence the risk of developing obesity. This discovery is especially interesting as it suggests that what we inherit from our parents is more than just DNA, and that extra factor can cause disease. Currently the best explanation for these phenomena is the involvement of epigenetic molecules which can be transferred between generations and can persist for the life-time of an individual. Understanding the role of epigenetic molecules in obesity is an exciting new area for disease research and is likely to provide new avenues for therapeutic innovation.
Non-Mendelian mechanisms of phenotype transmission in mammals and the evolutionary and health implications of these phenomena. Animal Developmental and Reproductive Biology, Epigenetics (incl. Genome Methylation and Epigenomics), Inherited diseases (incl. gene therapy), Metabolic Medicine.