Don't forget the 'epi' in genetics research, scientist says

Don't forget the 'epi' in genetics research, scientist says


In a review article published April 5 in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientist Andrew Feinberg, M.D., calls for more integration between two fields of DNA-based research: genetics and epigenetics. Most people are familiar with genetics, a field of research that focuses on the precise sequence of chemicals that form the ladder-like structure of DNA. However, epigenetics is not as well known among the public. It's the study of how information is added onto or influences the read-out of genes and, Feinberg says, is not combined often enough with genetics research to understand human disease.

Feinberg, who directs the Center for Epigenetics in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, says that the field of epigenetics captures what happens to our genome after environmental exposures in a way that DNA sequencing by itself cannot. "We tend to think of our genome as static, but it isn't. Most disease is influenced by some component of the changing environment and our variable exposure to it," says Feinberg, the King Fahd Professor of Medicine, Oncology, Molecular Biology and Genetics. "Looking at our genetic sequence alone doesn't tell us everything about that exposure."

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