Ludwig Cancer Research congratulates Yang Shi, a Member of the Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Oxford, on his election to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (NAM), among the highest honours in the fields of health and medicine. Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the NAM addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine, and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors.
Shi is recognised for his numerous contributions to epigenetic research, most notably his discovery in 2004 of an enzyme, LSD1, that erases methyl marks from histones, the proteins that help package DNA in the nucleus of the cell. Epigenetic modifications help regulate gene expression and are broadly disordered in cancer. Shi’s discovery overturned a 40-year-old dogma that considered histone methylation irreversible, upending longstanding models of genomic regulation. His lab went on to identify numerous other histone demethylases and described their roles in an array of biological processes. The NAM notes that “his elegant mechanistic discoveries revolutionised the epigenetics field and have had far-reaching impact on basic and translational research.”
Shi’s group has since also identified several enzymes that methylate RNA, which represent new opportunities to investigate RNA modifications in the regulation of gene expression and cancer.