Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Epigenetics

Epigenetics

The study of modifications to DNA and chromatin that promote changes in gene expression without altering the DNA sequence

Cells undergoing cytokinesis What is epigenetics?

The activity of our genes is determined by more than their DNA sequence alone. Active and silent genes are distinguished by epigenetic marks – chemical tags that are added to the DNA or to the proteins around which the DNA is organised on chromosomes.

All cells in the body are derived from stem cells, which have the unique ability of being able to give rise to any cell type.

Epigenetic marks play important roles in defining different cell types in the body and can be influenced by environmental and nutritional factors.

Blastocysts squareWhy is it important?

We are particularly interested in the epigenomes of the stem cells that contribute to, and are present in, the early embryo.

Using these cells we can uncover how epigenetic information affects the function of important organs such as the placenta, the heart, or the brain and behaviour throughout life. It is known that epigenetic marks decline during the ageing process.

Our research will provide approaches by which epigenetics can be manipulated in cells and organisms, potentially leading to enhanced stem cells and applications in regenerative medicine and healthy ageing.

Stained oocyteWhat is our research?

Using state-of-the-art technology, most of which we have developed ourselves, we are performing analyses to study the epigenome and gene expression patterns of mammals during embryonic development. This information allows us to unravel how epigenetic marks influence development.

We are defining signalling pathways in stem cells that induce reprogramming of the epigenome on a large scale. Additionally, we are studying the enzymes that regulate the epigenome together with factors such as RNA that can help to target specific epigenetic marks.


Epigenetics Feature



Our 2016 Annual Research Report includes feature articles highligting some of the themes that each research programme is working on. The Epigenetics feature "Unlocking the secrets of early development", looks at the role of epigenetics in early development and the contributions that it could make to regenerative medicine.



"Every cell type in our body results from a different reading of the same genome. Over the past 30 years, scientists have learned that our genes are controlled by epigenetics – a combination of processes that switch genes on and off without altering the DNA sequence itself. But much of epigenetics remains a mystery..." continue reading

31/07/2017

Noise helps cells make decisions

The Reik lab reveals the importance of genetic noise in development

What stem cells become could be influenced by small random differences…


27/06/2017

Directed gene-copy variation: the key to conquering new environments

The Houseley Lab show that cells can focus evolution to aid survival

Cells can accelerate evolution around genes they depend on


23/05/2017

Aged stem cells could lead to weaker immune systems

Single-cell analysis by the Reik lab and collaborators examines ageing in stem cells

Research reveals blood stem cells age at different rates

 

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Research Impact

2 Industrial Research Collaborations

2 CASE PhD Studentships

2 Formal Industrial Consultancy Agreements

3 New IP Licence Agreements

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