Nature News recently described a trend noticeable at Emory and elsewhere. That trend is epigenomics: studying the patterns of chemical groups that adorn DNA sequences and influence their activity. Often this means taking a comprehensive genome-wide look at the patterns of DNA methylation.
DNA methylation is a chemical modification analogous to punctuation or a highlighter or censorâ€™s pen. It doesnâ€™t change the letters of the DNA but it does change how that information is received.
One recent example of epigenomics from Emory is a collaboration between psychiatrist Andrew Miller and oncologist Mylin Torres, examining the long-lasting marks left by chemotherapy in the blood cells of breast cancer patients.
Their co-author Alicia Smith, who specializes in the intersection of psychiatry and genetics, reports “EWAS or epigenome-wise association studies are being used in complex disease research to suggest genes that may be involved in etiology or symptoms.Â They’re used in medication or diet studies to demonstrate efficacy or suggest side effects.Â Â Theyâ€™re also used in longitudinal studies to see if particular exposures or characteristics (i.e. low birthweight) have long-term consequences.” Read more