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Uncovering how stress talks to our genes

Psychosocial stress is abundant in modern societies and, when chronic or excessive, can have detrimental effects on our bodies. Yet each of us will respond to stressful experiences in different ways, for better or for worse. But what determines these different responses and outcomes as life progresses? And how exactly does stress “get under the skin?” These are some key questions that our lab seeks to answer. Our goal is to uncover the molecular underpinnings of stress-related conditions. 

A particular focus of our lab is how epigenetic changes contribute to stress-related somatic and behavioral phenotypes. Epigenetic changes are a set of chemical changes that influence how genes work without altering the genetic code itself. Because these changes can result from environmental exposures, the epigenome acts as a molecular interface that fine-tunes gene and cell function in response to life experiences. We examine how lasting epigenetic patterns result from stressful experiences, accrue throughout life, and can in turn shape health or disease trajectories. While we employ a life course perspective, we are especially interested in the upper end of the age spectrum and the role of stress epigenetics in aging-related phenomena.

To address these questions, our lab employs a translational approach that combines large-scale analyses in human cohorts with mechanistic investigations in cellular models. We use both bionformatics and wet lab tools. Our passion is to maintain an interdisciplinary, fun environment that promotes creative team work, offers strong mentorship, and fosters scientific growth.

Current job openings in the lab: 

  • Postdoctoral scholar in computational epigenomics
  • Graduate student positions

For further information or enquiries about the lab, related research, and job openings please contact Anthony Zannas, MD, MSc, PhD: anthony_zannas@med.unc.edu