Epigenetics is a relatively new area of biology that is changing everything we thought we knew about life. The term epigenetics is “changes to the observable characteristic or trait of an organism. It causes gene expression by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, hence the name epi- (Greek: over; above) genetics. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave differently. The best example of epigenetic changes is the process of cellular differentiation. Stem cells become the various types of cells in our body. In other words, a single fertilized egg cell changes into the many cell types including neurons, muscle cells, epithelium, blood vessels etc. as it continues to divide. It does so by activating (expressing) some genes while inhibiting others.”

Advertisements