August 11, 2014 – Genetics et al.
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Anchor lead: How are genetics, epigenetics and related fields related? Elizabeth Tracey reports
Epigenetics, or changes to genetic material that don’t actually reorder DNA, have been implicated in a range of diseases and conditions, many recent studies show, but are such changes more or less important than genes? Andrew Feinberg, an epigenetics expert at Johns Hopkins, shares his view.
Feinberg: The way I look at things is you have the genome, you have the epigenome and you have the environment. So we know that the genome is incredibly important in shaping risk of disease; we also know the environment is terribly important. For example, twin studies show the genome is not enough, in fact, it probably doesn’t explain most of the cause of disease. Like cancer, for example, this is largely an environmentally induced disease. Things like smoking clearly cause cancer but the diet is very important in cancer, too. :28
Feinberg explains that environmental factors can shape the epigenome and promote disease development. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.