About IHEC

Overview

The International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC) is a global consortium with the primary goal of providing free access to high-resolution reference human epigenome maps for normal and disease cell types to the research community. The epigenome reference maps will be of great utility in basic and applied research. They are likely to have an immediate impact on the understanding of many diseases, and will hopefully lead to the discovery of new means to treat or manage them. In addition to this work, many members support related projects to improve epigenomic technologies, investigate epigenetic regulation in disease processes, and explore broader gene-environment interactions in human health.

IHEC will facilitate communication among the members and offer a forum for coordination, with the objective of avoiding redundant research efforts, implementing high data quality standards, and thus maximizing efficiency among the scientists working to understand, treat, and prevent diseases.

 

Objectives

A long term objective of IHEC is to understand the extent to which the epigenome has shaped human populations over generations and in response to the environment

On a more detailed level IHEC pursues the following goals:

 

 

 

 

IHEC Countries

 

Committees & Working Groups

IHEC Structures

The structure of IHEC is based on a distributed organizational model. This model has been successfully used in other international genome projects, and relies on the interaction among funders (providing oversight), an international scientific steering committee (setting guidelines), and scientific groups and centers (data production centers, regional or national-level data analysis and coordination centers).

IHEC consists of two committees and a number of different working groups. Since the launch of IHEC in 2010, the work of the consortium has evolved dynamically, with emerging priorities and ongoing core activities. This is reflected by the varying thematic orientations of the working groups over time. Each of these working groups integrates key scientific and stakeholder expertise from around the world. The responsibilities and members of the current and past working groups are detailed below. Current working group typically meet virtually once per month.

 

Policies and Guidelines

As outlined in the overall IHEC Policy Document, central goals of IHEC – in a so-called first phase – were to define and coordinate the production of reference maps of human epigenomes for key cellular states relevant to health and diseases, to facilitate rapid distribution of the data to the research community, and to accelerate translation of this new knowledge to improve human health.

In the face of ongoing technological advances and rapidly evolving epigenomics research, IHEC has now entered into a second phase. Building on the achievements of the first phase, IHEC members have started to expand their focus from data generation to the application of these datasets through coordinated data assessment, integrative analyses and interpretation with the goal of providing a standardized framework for clinical translation of epigenetic knowledge. These new directions including the incorporation additional fields of activity within IHEC have led to the generation of an IHEC Phase II Roadmap Document.

Should you be interested in joining IHEC, please see our Membership section below for further details.

 

IHEC Membership

The International Human Epigenome Consortium aims to define and coordinate the production of reference maps of human epigenomes for key cellular states relevant to health and diseases, to facilitate rapid distribution of the data to the research community, and to accelerate translation of this new knowledge to improve human health.

There are two options for joining IHEC:

 

Why Epigenomics?

The deciphering of the human genome sequence has helped our understanding of biological processes in health and diseases. However, the way in which the genomic information is organized within the cell, through epigenetic processes, is known to play a major role in regulating gene expression and in controlling specific cellular functions. Epigenetics and epigenomics research explores those processes. They go beyond DNA-stored information and are essential for packaging and interpreting the genome, are fundamental to normal development and cell differentiation, and are increasingly recognized as being involved in human disease.

Mis-steps in epigenomic programming have been directly implicated in common human diseases such as diabetes, inflammation, cancer as well as in ageing. Importantly, epigenomic changes are potentially reversible by drug treatments. This has significant implications for the prevention and treatment of these major human diseases with regenerative medicine as a very promising clinical approach. Hence, it will be important to have reference epigenome maps of all relevant human cell types to evaluate the importance and the consequences of these epigenetic changes as well as their impact on health.

Differences in epigenetic profiles are known to be induced by environmental and nutrition changes, so that maps for reference epigenomes will greatly broaden our understanding of how the environment and nutrition will modulate epigenetic alterations. This new, non DNA-based, knowledge will have a major impact for novel avenues in preventing and diagnosing major human diseases.

Get to know some of the people behind IHEC and listen to their personal vision and opinions.