Epigenetics research gets a boost

27 April 2012

Scientists have invented a technique that will help researchers in the field of epigenetics better understand how changes in the epigenome impact human health.

Epigenetics is the branch of genetics that examines how different genes are switched on or off in response to modifications in the DNA.

The new method enables scientists to accurately distinguish between two DNA chemical modifications; the widely studied methylation (5mC) and the recently discovered hydroxymethylation (5hmC).  The work is a collaboration between Cambridge University, and the Babraham Institute.

Professor Wolf Reik who led the study at the Babraham Institute, said “With the new method we are now in a position to map these modifications at great precision, and to relate them to stem cell function, aging, and perhaps more generally to how the environment interacts with the genome."

The group at Cambridge University developed the chemistry specific to the base 5hmC, which the team at the Babraham Institute applied to their work on embryonic stem cells. 

The power of epigenetics and its significance for health is the subject of a free seminar on 31 May. Register for ‘Epigenetics: the secret key to healthhere.

The research was published on April 26 in the journal Science.