The, Genetic And Epigenetic Mutations

1064 WordsNov 17, 20155 Pages
Cancer, one of the most common diseases in the world, is a result of genetic and epigenetic mutations. Where genetics was at first used to explain phenotypes and disease, genetics alone could not explain the sheer amount of phenotypic diversity in a population—nor could it explain phenomenon such as how, “monozygotic twins or cloned animals [could] have different phenotypes and different susceptibilities to a disease.” Thus entered the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics is, “the study of heritable changes in gene expression that occur independent of changes in the primary DNA sequence.” Therefore, epigenetics has its own, independent mechanisms to affect the genotypes and phenotypes of individuals. Although technically independent of one another, like genetics, epigenetics can be greatly influenced and altered by external factors such as ones environment. For example, one study looked at the importance of nutrition in early life and its effects on the epigenome. Using families involved in the Dutch Hunger Winter and the Great Leap Forward in China, the study found that children exposed to famine in utero had DNA methylation changes in genes associated with birth weight and low-density lipoprotein. When followed up, years later, with a study of nutritional deprivation in mice, data showed that epigenetic changes not only affected the babies in utero, but also affected the next generation of mice. A Brief History of Epigenetics In 1930, Hermann J. Muller did one of the
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