Beyond genetics: illuminating the epigenome (and how it may lead to curing genetic diseases)

Beyond genetics: illuminating the epigenome (and how it may lead to curing genetic diseases)

Why do some people develop CLL, other cancers or non communicable diseases while others don't? We know that each of our body cells comes from just one cell at conception and that it differentiates into all the different cell types, all sharing the same DNA we inherited from our parents. We are gradually beginning to understand how different parts of our DNA are activated and deactivated to create what is called the epigenome and that it is the epigenome that is behind the differentation into our different body cell lines and their susceptibility towards becoming cancerous.

Merlin Crossley, Dean of Science and Professor of Molecular Biology at UNSW Australia has written one of the most lucid explanations about this process and how we are gradually untangling how it all happens. I can highly recommend his article:


Photo: I very much doubt that anyone will be able to identify what I've photographed on the fence post. Hint; while I put the object on the fence post to photograph, it does have a connection...

10 Replies

  • A related article from my morning reading:

    Immune System May Play A Role in Alzheimer's Disease

    "While the human genome, which are genes contained in DNA, had already been mapped, the epigenome, which gives signals as to whether a gene is active or not in a cell, had not, until now. The epigenetic processes that have now been mapped — and that occur in more than 100 different cell types — could spur development of drugs that can undue actions that impact genes that lead to diseases."


  • Is that what's left of coral?

  • Another hint. It was found inside something once living...

  • Rusty barbed wire eaten by a kangaroo? (With fatal consequences to the kangaroo?)

  • My hubby reckons it's a bit of tree, eaten by termites.

  • We have a winner! Congratulations to Paula's husband for correctly identifying the mystery object. I found this in the core of a termite infested gum tree trunk when splitting it for firewood. The termites had eaten out the tree's centre, leaving it packed with the digested tree remains, much of it soft, loose and powdery. When I split the wood, this central core fell out and in doing so, the powdery material fell away, leaving what you see in the photo.

    I'm most impressed that this was identified. Paula, your husband must have had the job of cutting wood for heating at some stage in his past.


  • Thanks Neil. My hubby was quite chuffed to think he was a winner! :-) Yes, he is a farmer's son and used to cutting wood. But termites are very rare in the UK - he got to know termite damage while In Asia.

    It did look rather like coral though, as Seymour suggested. And after I'd checked the Wiki link, I could see why Chris suggested Stinkhorn (interesting article - I learnt some new things re Stinkhorns today!). Yeah, my barbed wire idea wasn't very likely - it was just when I first saw the pic, it made me think of rusty barbed wire.

  • This is such a good article, I thought I'd mention some MOOCs (Massively Open Online Classes) if anyone is stimulated to learn more. These are courses offered at no cost. They are challenging for the layperson, and have some pre-requisites:

    From the University of Melbourne: - June 25-Aug22, 2015

    This course requires some knowledge of genetics that you might glean from:

    The textbook used by the Univeristy of British Columbia's "Useful Genetics" MOOC:

    The UBC Useful Genetics MOOCs are very much worth the time and effort, but, alas, are not currently scheduled:

    The videos from the course are on YouTube:

  • The Spanish drew the CLL short straw and are the 'go to' country in CLL genome studies...

    Projects underway

    Overview of the Spanish teams

    The overall International Cancer Genome Consortium, located in Toronto, Canada

    New Data Portal...

    Overview of the ICGC

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