Epigenetics Linked to Benefits of Soy


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A new study by Duke Medical Center researchers showed that pregnant mice that ate a diet rich in genistein, an active ingriedient in soy, produced offspring that had an altered coat color and were less likely to develop obesity later in life. The cause of these significant changes was found to be an epigenetic alteration: hypermethylation of six cytosine-guanine (CG sites) upstream of the transcriptional start site of the Agouti gene.

The research article is published in the April 1, 2006 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

The Imprinted Brain Theory of Autism


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The Journal of Evolutionary Biology has published a mini-review ahead of print that proposes a new evolutinary theory for the aetiology of autism. Dr. Christopher Badcock and Professor Bernard Crespi propose that autism has been developed through “imbalances in brain development involving enhanced effects of paternally expressed imprinted genes, deficits of effects from maternally expressed genes, or both.”

The proposed theory builds on Baron-Cohen’s “extreme male brain theory” of autism, which the authors claim fails to account for the high incidence of autistic males that are more towards the “normal” end of the spectrum. Additionally, Badcock and Crespi have trouble reconciling the extreme male brain theory of autism with the incidence of any female cases of the disorder.

Rather, the authors suggest a new “extreme imprinted brain theory” that accounts for the sex ratio biases of autism (approximately 4:1 ratio of males to females) and “other observations that are otherwise inexplicable.”

Imbalanced genomic imprinting in brain development: an evolutionary basis for aetiology of autism

NIEHS Encouraged by Epigenetics Research


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The January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives offered a “Director’s Perspectives” from Director David A. Schwartz of the National Institute of Envionmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The director highlighted the growing research opportunities in the field of epigenetics, and emphasized the importance of using the tools available to environmental genomics researchers to help better understand the “genetic variation in the development and progression of common yet complex human diseases.”

The Need for an Human Epigenome Project


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In a failure to thoroughly understand genetic diseases by mapping the human genome, scientists are now striving to dig deeper. Researchers with diverse interests have made discoveries implicating epigenetics to “play a major role in human diseases”, but do these discoveries warrant the need for a Human Epigenome Project? Peter Jones, D. Sc., director of the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, along with 39 other scientists, believe so.

Epigenetics implicated in clinical anti cancer resistance


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A research team with the Centre of Oncology and Applied Pharmacology at Glasgow University postulate an epigenetic mechanism in driving polygenic resistance in cancer patients. The UK group suggests that the current focus of “specific genes or biochemical pathways” for acquired resistance to anti cancer drugs is an “oversimplification.” Rather, aberrant methylation of multiple genes occuring simultaneously during tumor development may be the key to cancer resistance.  www.nature.com

Epigenetics explored at McGill University


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Dr. Moshe Szyf and colleagues at McGill University in Montreal are conducting research in the area of epigenetics, reports Globe and Mail. Dr. Szyf and his team are involved in the development of an epigenetic cancer drug in clinical trials that aims to turn on the methylated genes that inhibit tumor growth in cancer patients. In addition, Dr. Szyf’s team at McGill are exploring how epigenetics may play a role when cancer metastasizes.

MIT Technology Review: 10 Emerging Technologies


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The March/April edition of MIT’s Technology Review contains a special package covering “10 Emerging Technologies,” one of which is epigenetics. The article details the German company Epigenomics, which is working to identify a rapid and sensitive test for gene methylation.

Review: Epigenetics linked to cancer


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The January 2006 issue of Nature Reviews Genetics contains a review of the epigenetic progenitor origin of human cancer by Feinberg et al. The review introduces recent discoveries suggesting a “crucial early role for epigenetic alteration in cancer.”

Welcome to Epigenetics


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Welcome to Epigenetics News.  This site opened on March 18, 2006 with the goal of providing up-to-date developments in the area of epigenetics.  We’re pleased that you’ve decided to stop by and hope that you’ll continue to come back as the site develops.