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Epigenetics Researchers


In 1942, an embryologist named Conrad Waddington introduced the term “epigenetics,” which he defined as the “whole complex of developmental processes” that lie between “genotype and phenotype.” Research in epigenetics began to increase in the 1960s, but there were significant disagreements regarding the definition of epigenetics and if the field was even a new specialty of genetics or just another aspect of ongoing genetic research.

During the last several decades, interest in epigenetics research has skyrocketed due to emerging evidence that epigenetic mechanisms underpin a wide variety of illnesses and diseases (including cancer and some autoimmune, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, reproductive, and respiratory disorders). Lifestyle behaviors (such as poor diet or lack of sleep or exercise) and exposure to carcinogens, pesticides, bacteria, viruses, and radiation have been linked to changes to epigenetic mechanisms. For example, researchers have determined that poor nutrition, exposure to pollution, or the use of tobacco and some drugs during pregnancy by an expectant mother can alter her baby’s epigenetics—and some of these changes can remain for decades and cause the child to be more susceptible to disease. These and other discoveries have fueled interest in the field.

In 2010, the Human Epigenome Project was established to map epigenetic markers in the human genome in order to understand the role of gene regulation in development and disease. “By 2015 the group had uncovered key information about functional elements that regulate gene expression in 127 human tissues and cell types,” according to