Dr Heidi Sutherland

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Research Fellow

1998   PhD (Molecular Genetics), University of Sydney

1992   Bachelor Of Science (Biochemistry and genetics), University of Sydney

Dr Heidi Sutherland is a molecular biologist with an interest in how information stored in the genome orchestrates the complicated processes associated with the development and life of an organism. She has therefore been studying and working in the fields of gene expression, epigenetics, nuclear structure and function, mouse development and human genetics. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Hons 1st class) from the Biochemistry department of The University of Sydney she completed a PhD with Prof Emma Whitelaw studying the role of epigenetic modifications in the expression mouse transgenes. She subsequently did a postdoc with Prof Wendy Bickmore at the Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, in particular focusing on how modifications to DNA (e.g. methylation) or the proteins that package DNA (e.g. histone modifications) effect gene expression and the role of some of the proteins that either write or read these marks in mouse development.

Since returning to Australia she has been working as a Research Fellow in the Genomics Research Centre investigating the genetics of complex human diseases and traits, including migraine, cardiovascular disease risk traits and memory. Through this work she has acquired expertise in these subjects and with a range of technologies, such as next generation sequencing, pyrosequencing, and high-throughput array and genotyping technologies. There is currently great interest in whether epigenetic modifications which control gene regulation may play a role in disease risk and therefore has been studying these modifications, particularly DNA methylation, in human populations with respect to cardiovascular disease, migraine and aging. This research will provide insights into the mechanisms and pathways in the development of complex traits and disorders. Furthermore, as they are potentially modifiable, identifying epigenetic factors may point to novel treatments or interventions, or provide potential new drug targets for these conditions.