President’s Symposium to Examine the Role of Epigenetics in Respiratory Disorders

ATS President’s Symposium: A Potpourri of Epigenetics in Respiratory Disease (B13)

9:15-11:15 a.m. Monday

Room 202 A (South Building, Level 2), Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Progress is made one symposium at a time, according to ATS President David Gozal, MD, MBA. With progress toward precision medicine in mind, Dr. Gozal will focus the President’s Symposium on the role of epigenetics in respiratory disorders.

“Epigenetics has emerged as a major player among the various factors that underlie the unique disease phenotype of each patient with respiratory disorders,” says Dr. Gozal. “Therefore, improved understanding of its role is mandatory for more personalized elaboration of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.”

The first two topics in the symposium will be about aging processes. Annette Peters, MD, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II in Munich, Germany, will speak on biological aging and air pollution, focusing on how the lung is vulnerable to the interactions between the environment and aging processes. “At any given chronological age, the environment can accelerate biological aging. Understanding the role of pollution in this context is very important,” says Dr. Gozal.

Peter J. Barnes, MD, DSc, head of respiratory medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, will tackle senescence in COPD. Aging processes in the lung are not just the result of interactions between the environment and the genetic code of an individual, says Dr. Gozal. “The presence of diseases such as COPD can also affect the biological aging of the lung in humans. A better understanding of the mechanisms may enable targeted therapeutic strategies.”

Donata Vercelli, MD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, will examine the role of epigenetics in the asthma/COPD continuum. “The realization that a subset of asthmatics are at higher risk for developing COPD later in life has fostered efforts to better understand how pathophysiological pathways in asthma and COPD can be regulated,” Dr. Gozal explains.

Stephen Archer, MD, head of medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston in Ontario, Canada, will look at changes in the lungs related to pulmonary hypertension. “The vasculature of the lung can be profoundly altered in diseases such as pulmonary hypertension,” says Dr. Gozal. “Among the several mechanisms that account for the generation and persistence of structural and functional changes in the pulmonary circulation, the emergence of epigenetic networks as regulating such alterations is a distinct possibility.”

Dr. Gozal will round out the symposium by exploring complications related to sleep apnea. “Sleep apnea carries very substantial cardiovascular and metabolic morbid consequences as well as increased risk for cancer-related adverse prognosis,” says Dr. Gozal. “I will explore the evidence linking epigenetic modifications in specific gene pathways and the presence or absence of reversibility.”

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