Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Explainer: how epigenetics is providing insight into cancer

Susan Clark

DNA provides the instructions to make us how we look and contributes to our life expectancy. Identical twins have exactly the same DNA, so why are slightly different in many ways? The answer is epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the name given to the science that studies the way in which cells package DNA so that only certain genes are used in one tissue, and other genes are used in other tissues. “Epi” means above, so epigenetics means “above” genetics. It provides instructions about how to package DNA to tell our cells what sort of cells to be, for example skin, brain, or heart cells.

All of the different cells in our body contain the same DNA (the same genes) and epigenetic factors determine which genes become either silenced if unneeded, or active if needed to make cells.

Epigenetic factors are chemical tags on the DNA or on proteins called histones. These chemical tags attach to the DNA and are responsible for providing the DNA-packing signals inside cells. There are lots of different epigenetic factors and the number of new chemical tags discovered are increasing......To Read More...

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