Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Manel Esteller, ''if the Alphabet is Genetics, Spelling is Epigenetics''

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Last Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Why don’t identical twins have the same disease at the same time? Why do two cats who share the same DNA have different spots? The answer is in epigenetics.

The director of the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program and Director of Strategic Projects at IDIBELL, Manel Esteller, spoke about Epigenetics on November 21st at the Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona, in the cycle of science gatherings organized by the City Council of Barcelona, which has enjoyed the cooperation of IDIBELL and CRG.

The science journalist Xavier Pujol Gebellí gave the floor to Dr. Esteller. The expert started talking about epigenetic precursors: Darwin and natural selection, Mendel and genetics, Lamarck and the neck of giraffes. Also a dark character, Dr. Lysenko, in the Stalinist USSR, who came to ensure that after cutting the tail to mice generation after generation, finally descendants ended up with no tail. This, of course, was false. Acquired characters only pass to the next generation if they affect germ cells, as Conrad Waddington, considered the father of modern epigenetics, explained.

The cloning of the sheep Dolly, announced in 1997, showed that we are more than our genes. Dolly was obese and suffered from arthritis and diabetes, unlike its genetically identical mother. The explanation was in epigenetics. "There are things that go beyond the DNA", said Esteller. "These things are the chemical marks that switch in and off the genes, and we know that Dolly had problems in switching in and off its genes, it had chemical markers, epigenetic marks, that were different from her mother’s."

The IDIBELL researcher compared the genetics with a text without punctuation nor accents, nor cases, just a series of letters, one beside the other. Epigenetics is what would give meaning to the text. There are several epigenetic marks, the best known of which is methylation, which involves the addition of a methyl chemical group in a section of DNA that disables certain genes. The epigenome, i.e. the set of epigenetic marks, change much during life, which does not happen with the genome.

Twin crimes

Esteller gave several examples to explain the effect of epigenetic changes: the propensity to obesity in people who suffered hunger during World War II, the hair colour of mice fed with a diet rich in folates or biological differences that appear between identical twins. "If only the DNA were important, identical twins should develop cancer or lupus at the same time, which is not the case", said the researcher. Esteller confessed that police agencies had been in touch with him to collaborate in solving crimes in which people who had participated had a twin brother, but "we do not participate on it, because we already have enough work."

Epigenetics is behind many diseases. The researcher gave the example of cancer, which has genetic and epigenetic origins. Esteller called it "one of the ugliest diseases, because it's like an accelerated evolution, adapts its epigenetics and its genes to attack the immune system or the chemotherapy". The expert spoke about drugs and diagnostic systems based on epigenetics that are already being used in cancer treatment. But, in addition to cancer, there are other diseases in which epigenetic alterations occur as various genetic syndromes, psychiatric diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases.

The epigenome changes as we grow older. Esteller referred to a recent study coordinated by the group showing, from the comparison of the epigenome of babies and centenarians, how it is degraded during life, making us more susceptible to disease. Dr. Esteller warned that these changes increase with tobacco or alcohol consumption, or with an unhealthy diet. "The good news is that drugs are being tested that are capable of reversing epigenetic alterations associated with age", concluded the researcher.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Keeping Growth in Check
Ribosomal proteins RPL5 and RPL11 play an essential role in normal cell proliferation.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Key Role of a Protein in the Segregation of Genetic Material During Cell Division
Researchers at IDIBELL have reported an article which delves into the regulator mechanisms of mitosis.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Discovered a Mechanism that Induces Migration of Tumor Cells in Liver Cancer
Coordinated overactivation of TGFb and CXCR4 signaling pathways confer migratory properties to the hepatocellular carcinoma cells.
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Researchers Discover the Genetic Signature of Highly Aggressive Small Lung Tumors
A study conducted by the IDIBELL allows to identify this type of cancer at an early stage and adapt the treatment.
Thursday, October 03, 2013
Discovered Epigenetic Alterations in the Brain of Alzheimer's Patients
Alzheimer disease is becoming a major health problem in Western societies, exacerbated by the progressive aging of the population.
Monday, September 16, 2013
High Levels of RANK Protein Interferes with the Differentiation of Mammary Cells
Levels of this protein increase with age, which could explain the increase in breast cancer risk associated with age.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The Epigenome Differentiates the Different Human Populations
Establishing what differentiates us from our neighbors, our friends or strangers from distant countries.
Monday, August 05, 2013
Discovered a Future Therapeutic Target for Lung Cancer Treatment
One of the goals of research in cancer genetics and molecular biology is to get an "on demand" treatment, with maximum effect and minimal toxicity.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Brain Epigenome Changes from Birth to Adolescence
Experience of parents with their children and teachers with their students demonstrate how kids change their behaviours and knowledge from childhood to adolescence.
Friday, July 05, 2013
Discovered the Role of Noncoding 5S rRNA in Protecting the p53 Tumor Suppressor Gene
Over 50% of tumors are associated with mutations in p53.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
A Gene Conserved from Worms to Humans Opens the Door to new Therapeutics
Gene shows promising therapeutic strategies in cancer and in some types of blindness.
Friday, June 21, 2013
An Epigenetic Change Causes the Block of Antitumor Genes
Healthy cells live in a delicate balance between growth-promoting genes (oncogenes) and those who restrain it (anti-oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes).
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Identified a Key Protein in Maintaining the Identity of B Lymphocytes
This finding could be useful for the study of blood diseases such as lymphoma and leukemia.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Found in Amish a Genetic Mutation Causing Mental Retardation Very Similar to Angelman Syndrome
It is the first time that associates a mutation in HERC2 with human disease.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Epigenetic Mechanism through which Protein SirT2 Regulates Cell Cycle Progression and Genomic Stability
The study of IDIBELL researchers confirms antitumor properties of sirtuin 2.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Scientific News
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos