The workshop organized by ALLIANCE was aimed to get an overview of the present status of epigenetics in radioecology and environmental research, in order to develop a strategy for the call NFRP-2018-8 by EURATOM. In this call a gap analysis is recommended to identify future research directives. MELODI identified areas in a strategic research agenda (SRA) that required further research:
- To explore the shape of the dose-response relationship for radiation-induced health effects
- To understand the potential impact of individual susceptibility on radiation-induced health effects
- To identify, develop and validate biomarkers for exposure, early and late effects for cancer or/and non-cancer diseases
- To explore and define the role of epigenetic modifications in radiation-induced health effects
- To explore the roles of specific target cells for radiation-induced late developing health effects
- To understand the health effects of inhomogeneous dose distributions, radiation quality and internal emitters
One of the gaps in the SRA is the role of epigenetic modifications in radiation induced health effects, especially the role of epigenetics in long-term and transgenerational studies.
During the workshop epigenetic work from different groups was presented including data from the CERAD project. During the discussions it became apparent that certain aspects in epigenetics are generally understudied, specifically in ionizing radiation research:
- Most research is performed on DNA methylation and mostly on the global level.
- There is a poor link between epigenetics and adverse effects.
- The influence of the chromatin state (including structural changes as well as specific histone modifications) and miRNAs is hardly explored.
- Due to the lack of data, epigenetics is far away to be applied in risk assessment or for regulatory purposes.
Because of these reasons the conclusions of this workshop were to focus on several aspect for future project proposals if it comes to ionizing radiation exposures:
- Long-term exposures with environmental relevant doses
- Focus on chromatin structure as a first tier in epigenetic studies
- Clearly link epigenetics to phenotype and gene expression
- Standardization of test methods for epigenetic research
- Focus on how epigenetics could be used in risk assessments
- Exploring the possibility of using epigenetics in remediation following exposures
Jorke Kamstra (NMBU) represented CERAD at the workshop and presented his work on "Zebrafish as a model to assess transgenerational effects of ionizing radiation via epigenetic mechanisms"