Epigenetics: molecular mechanisms and implications for disease

  • Handel A
  • Ebers G
  • Ramagopalan S
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Abstract

Epigenetics is rising to prominence in biology as a mechanism by which environmental factors have intermediate-term effects on gene expression without changing the underlying genetic sequence. This can occur through the selective methylation of DNA bases and modification of histones. There are wide-ranging implications for the gene-environment debate and epigenetic mechanisms are causing a reevaluation of many traditional concepts such as heritability. The reversible nature of epigenetics also provides plausible treatment or prevention prospects for diseases previously thought hard-coded into the genome. Here, we consider how growing knowledge of epigenetics is altering our understanding of biology and medicine, and its implications for future research. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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