Enhancers: Where evolution meets development and disease

Studies illuminate roles for non-coding DNA in human brain evolution and vulnerability to disease

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, one may reasonably wonder why to bother reading this new issue of neuroDEVELOPMENTS. Keeping up with the latest numbers, epidemiological models, drug trials, or mask recommendations takes enough time, and people are rightly transfixed in hopes of keeping themselves and their loved ones healthy. Yet, here we hazard to say that reading this latest version of the neuroDEVELOPMENTS newsletter will capture your attention. The discovery that genetic variation is linked to psychiatric disorders and that most of the variation is in regions of the genome long thought to be “silent” is a profound insight to emerge from the Human Genome Project. Here we discuss three recent papers focused on the cell type and pathological specificity of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in the human brain related to these disease-associated variations.

In the first issue since the death of our prescient friend, Steve Lieber, we are committed to follow his charge to gain insight into how the human nervous system functions. Steve first suggested this newsletter format and we trust you will enjoy this 5th issue. Three editorial members are authors of the papers we discuss, and each paper gives us insight into the genetic mechanisms important to brain evolution, development, and disease. Thanks to the Board for their comments that strengthen our understanding of the genesis of developmental brain disorders.

-Ron McKay, PhD, Chief Editor
Lieber Institute for Brain Development

-Venkata S. Mattay, MD
Managing Editor

-Michele Solis, PhD
Science Writer

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Editorial Board

Fred ‘Rusty’ Gage, PhD
President, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD
Professor, UCLA School of Medicine

Elizabeth Grove, PhD
Professor, University of Chicago

Jürgen Knoblich, PhD
Interim Scientific Director, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Arnold Kriegstein, MD
Professor, UCSF

Pat Levitt, PhD
Professor, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Mu-Ming Poo, PhD
Director, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences

John Rubenstein, MD, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF

Nenad Sestan, MD, PhD
Professor, Yale University

Flora Vaccarino, MD
Professor, Yale University

Chris Walsh, MD, PhD
Chief, Division of Genetics & Genomics, Boston Children’s Hospital

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