DNA Day experts answer your questions about Epigenetics

20 April 2012

Above: Image © RichardUpshur, iStockphoto.com

What is epigenetics and how is it different from genetics?

Structural genetics refers to changes in the DNA sequence. Epigenetics are not structural. There are a few mechanisms, one of which is methylation. Two individuals with the same DNA sequence for a gene can have very different expression of this gene if their methylation status differ. Methylation is the modification of the C and G nucleotide with a methyl group. There are other epigenetics mechanisms aside from methylation.

- Answer provided by Dr. Sylvie Cloutier

What is the latest on ' epigenetic' research?

The latest in epigenetics, is how these factors play a role in mental health.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

Can you share some of the maternal effects (or paternal effects!) in humans, as a result of epigenetic inheritance from gamete mRNA?

Well environmental sources may alter epigenetic patterns in DNA and the resulting offspring may have behavioural problems. We are starting to see that epigenetics is playing a big role in mental health issues. We are just beginning to understand these epigenetic changes. Epigenetics is cool, since you can alter the methylation patterns of DNA in one cell type and not in another, and these epigenetic changes are reversible.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac


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