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

17/11/2017

Epigenetics helps keep the immune system running

Dr Anne Corcoran's team examines the role of epigenetics in antibody production

Markers in the genome control how often certain genes are used…


02/11/2017

Preventing a genetic uprising in early life

Using small RNAs to prevent genetic damage

The Reik lab reveal a new mechanism for controlling transposons…


06/10/2017

Peter Rugg-Gunn awarded tenure by the Institute

Dr Rugg-Gunn now becomes a permanent member of the Institute

Tenure recognises Dr Rugg-Gunn's outstanding scientific acheivements

 

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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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