Epigenetic mechanisms are transmitted through secondary modifications of chromosomes. DNA-Methylation and a set of complex histone modifications are the heritable chromosomal marks which affect the regulation of many biological processes in a sustainable manner. Together with non-coding RNAs such epigenetic modifications program the chromatin of a cell in a sustainable and heritable manner. Environmental influences can reshape this epigenetic information and cause long term changes in the cellular function.


In the course of development of a multicellular organism epigenetic programs are newly formed. The universal genome of an organism is transformed into cell type specific epigenomes which are stably maintained in the body. The modern methods of next generations sequencing combined with whole genome bisulfite and ChIP technologies allow to map the epigenomes of individual cells. Epigenome research is interdisciplinary and requires a joint teamwork of clinicians, experimentalists and bioinformaticians.

Medical Epigenetics

Epigenetic research offers new concepts to understand the molecular control in biology and medicine. Diseased cells often exhibit characteristic epigenetic changes. These changes can be identified by high sensitive molecular methods - ultimately on the level of individual cells. Epigenetic signatures are a specific "class" of modern functional biomarkers for individualized medicine. In addition to this new level of diagnostics epigenetic changes offer new possibilities for therapeutic interventions on the level of gene regulation.

For more background information go to links or see: http://epigenetics.uni-saarland.de.