Sins and Ghosts: Epigenetics as a Hot Research Topic

On our newest blog post, 2018 Lindau Alumna Arunima Roy writes about epigenetics as a research field: 

No scientist publishes without a full disclosure and so here’s mine: since 2017, I have been working in epigenetics. So far, my conversations with those not in this field has been on the lines of “You work in epigenetics? Woah! That’s a hot field to be in now.”

I partly see where they are coming from. Epigenetics presents an uncharted territory and believe you me, I too have salivated at the thought of all the discoveries waiting to be made. However, having seen the field up close, my enthusiasm has tempered, not because there aren’t any promising leads, but because there seem to be too many of them. The closer you look at it, the more complex and nefariously murky the picture becomes.

At its core, epigenetics are changes that alter the way genes function. That is, genes provide the basic template; all the instructions that our body’s cells need to survive and to function. However, they don’t all continuously work and keep the machinery chuffing away, no. Genes can be, and are, turned on or off. It is here that epigenetics makes its debut. Epigenetic patterns decide which gene is turned on and when. Subsequently, epigenetics controls what instructions reach a cell, controlling the cell’s actions and functions.  

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