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Scientists discuss the building blocks of life at International Chromosome Conference held at Appalachian

Stimpson_t.jpgBOONE—Researchers from around the globe are attending the 17th International Chromosome Conference being held for the first time at Appalachian State University.

The conference brings together some of the best cytogeneticists in the world. It has met once every three years in the major cities of Europe, with one meeting in Jerusalem. The group is on campus through June 26 at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center.

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Kaitlin Stimpson, center, a graduate student in Duke University’s program in genetics and genomics, participates in a poster session at the 17th International Chromosome Conference held for the first time at Appalachian State University. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)

Cytogeneticists from more than 15 countries representing five continents are attending the meeting, which features talks by Dr. Scott Hawley of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo., and Dr. Jenny Graves of The Australian National University in Australia.

Appalachian was chosen as the host institution through the efforts of Kenneth Shull, professor emeritus of the Department of Biology.

“Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes,” Shull said. “It encompasses the structure, organization and evolution of chromosomes and the way they move during cell division.”

Problems during cell division, called meiosis, can lead to a variety of medical problems from mild to lethal, such as Down, Kleinfelter, Turner, Patau and Edwards syndromes. “Other irregularities in meiosis lead to organisms having more than the normal two sets of chromosomes,” Shull said. “Many of our food crops and flowers are the products of such ‘problems,’ but they have proved very useful to humans.  The most common type of wheat grown for the last 3,000 years has six sets of chromosomes instead of two.”

Topics covered at the conference include chromatin and chromosome structure, gene expression, specialized chromosomes (such as X and Y chromosomes), chromosomes in genome sequencing and analysis, meiosis and recombination, chromosome and genome evolution, and chromosome aberrations.