Researchers characterize epigenetic fingerprint of 1,628 people

June 2, 2011

Until a decade, it was believed that differences between people were due solely to the existence of genetic changes, which are alterations in the sequence of our genes. The discoveries made during these last ten years show that beings with the same genetics like the twins and cloned animals may have different characteristics and disease due to epigenetic changes.

Epigenetics involves that are added to DNA and proteins that package it, to regulate their activity. The more recognized epigenetic brand is DNA methylation, a process based on the addition of a methyl chemical group into a part of our genetic puzzle. Therefore, while the genetic is like the alphabet, is like the punctuation marks of a text.

The researcher Manel Esteller, director of the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), professor at the University of Barcelona and ICREA researcher, has coordinated a work that identifies the "epigenetic fingerprints" of 1,628 people, healthy volunteers and patients suffering from , such as cancer, and cardiovascular and . The findings are published this week in the scientific journal Genome Research.

'Photo finish'

"The study analyses thousands of sites of in this great set of physiological and pathological tissues, it would be like a photo finish in a race that teaches you the epigenome of the individual at a particular time" says Dr. Esteller.

The results from the research provide understanding of many processes of the human body and how these processes lead to disease. The IDIBELL researcher says that "in the case of cancer, the study shows that all human tumours suffer epigenetic inactivation of cancer-protective genes and also lose their epigenetic memory and can not remember what healthy tissue was."

Dr. Esteller explains how these changes related to the cancerous disease are not instantaneous but gradually accumulate with aging of our bodies. The changes are different from those in dementia and other autoimmune diseases with different epigenomes.

A very interesting result for its potential applicability is that we could know the primary tumour of metastases with unknown origin: "If we know the tumour from which emerged these cells, we can provide the most appropriate therapy for a patient and improve his or her survival".

The investigation involves several IDIBELL researchers linked to IDIBELL's scientific partners: the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the Bellvitge University Hospital.

Explore further: Study gives clue as to how notes are played on the genetic piano

More information: A DNA Methylation Fingerprint of 1,628 Human Samples. Genome Research.

Related Stories

Study gives clue as to how notes are played on the genetic piano

May 12, 2011
Japanese and U.S. scientists in the young field of epigenetics Thursday reported a rationale as to how specific genes are silenced and others are not. Because this effect can be reversed, it may be possible to devise therapies ...

Recommended for you

Maternal diet may program child for disease risk, but better nutrition later can change that

October 20, 2017
Research has shown that a mother's diet during pregnancy, particularly one that is high-fat, may program her baby for future risk of certain diseases such as diabetes. A new study from nutrition researchers at the University ...

New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

October 20, 2017
A new study by scientists at UMass Medical School shows that using a technique called "nuclease-free" gene editing to correct cells with the mutation that causes a rare liver disease leads to repopulation of the diseased ...

Researchers find evidence of DNA damage in veterans with Gulf War illness

October 19, 2017
Researchers say they have found the "first direct biological evidence" of damage in veterans with Gulf War illness to DNA within cellular structures that produce energy in the body.

Researchers drill down into gene behind frontotemporal lobar degeneration

October 19, 2017
Seven years ago, Penn Medicine researchers showed that mutations in the TMEM106B gene significantly increased a person's risk of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), the second most common cause of dementia in those ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.