University of Melbourne forum discusses twins

Identical twins can have very different lives and health despite their shared genes, according to UK expert Professor Tim Spector from London’s King College, who spoke at a public forum at the University of Melbourne yesterday.

Melbourne science genetics study
Study science at Melbourne
At the forum Twins: changing the future of genetics, hosted by the Australian Twin Registry, based at the University of Melbourne, Professor Spector  questioned how genes shape our personal characteristics, health and identity.

He says that even genetically identical twins can be very different, and we can learn much about diseases and our own health by understanding similarities and differences between twins.

“Today, as a result of twin research in Australia, we better understand environmental and genetic factors in conditions such as obesity, epilepsy, cancer, childhood learning and behaviour, osteoporosis and mental health,” said John Hopper, Director of the Australian Twin Registry and Professor at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Spector says twins show us that we are not captive to our genes. Instead, minor life events and the choices we make, as well as those made by our ancestors, fuse with our inherited genes to mould us into individuals with our own health identity.

He explained theories on what makes you so different to your siblings—why do you vote a certain way, love salads, get cancer or depression, dislike sport or never put on weight?

“We are not just skin and bones controlled by our genes, but evolving minds and bodies slowly changing shape, driven by many processes we still cannot comprehend,” he says.

“Many of the subtle differences between us appear now to be due to chance or fate, but as science rapidly evolves and explains current mysteries we will be able to become more active participants in this human moulding process.”

The forum detailed the latest cutting-edge genetic discoveries, show the vital role of twins in research through case studies, how your genes change over time and how this shapes your health and identity.

University of Melbourne Faculty of Science

As one of the oldest science faculties in Australia, the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne provides a range of postgraduate training programs and community services, based on a solid foundation of research in the pure and applied sciences. It comprises four schools and five departments, which include
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Sciences
  • Genetics
  • Information Systems
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Optometry and Vision Sciences
  • Zoology

Genetics at the University of Melbourne has featured prominently in the history of genetics in Australia and continues to make a major contribution to genetics research and teaching. The department teaches at all levels in the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Biomedical Science degrees and also has an extensive schools program. The university has a vibrant research program ranging across fungal, plant, insect and mammalian systems in the areas of molecular, developmental, population and ecological genetics and genomics.

Research in the department is focused on the following areas of biology: the genetics of cell division, fungal metabolism, gene regulation, development and pathogenicity, heavy metal homeostasis in plants, insects and mammalian cells, neurogenetics in insect and mammalian systems, ecological genetics and speciation in vertebrate and invertebrate systems.



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