Randy L. Jirtle:
EP alum honored on Engineers' Day
Oct. 13, the College of Engineering honored eight alumni whose personal
and professional accomplishments have broadened knowledge in cancer
medicine, improved healthcare information technology, strengthened the
role of plastics in Wisconsin’s economy, and benefited their own
companies and industries in countless ways. These engineers, executives
and entrepreneurs received their awards at an evening banquet during
the college’s 59th annual Engineers’ Day celebration. Alum
Randy L. Jirtle (BSNEEP ’70, MS ’73 and
PhD ’76, radiation biology), a professor of radiation oncology
at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was among the honorees.
Jirtle’s faculty career as a professor of radiation oncology and
an associate professor of pathology at Duke University has enabled him
to explore the human genome and the relatively new field of epigenetics,
the study of how genes and the environment produce their effects on
an organism’s visible characteristics.
Among his accomplishments, Jirtle identified the IGF2R as being a tumor
suppressor, and demonstrated that its mutation increases risk of cancer
and decreased intelligence. He also showed that maternal nutrition during
pregnancy affects adult disease susceptibility, not by mutating the
genome, but by altering the epigenome, the set of DNA instructions that
controls gene expression. His most recent research efforts to understand
the impact of radiation on the epigenome enable him to identify nutritional
supplements that protect the body from low-dose radiation.
An invited speaker at the 2004 Nobel Symposium on Epigenetics, Jirtle
has more than 150 published articles to his credit, as well as numerous
book chapters and a book on liver regeneration and carcinogenesis.