The Importance of the Imprintome

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The idea of the impintome is still foreign to many people. So, let’s start with a simple explanation.

For the majority of genes, we inherit two functional copies—one from our mother and one from our father. However, imprinted genes follow a different pattern, as we inherit only one functional copy. Depending on the specific gene, either the copy from our mother or our father undergoes epigenetic silencing. This silencing process typically involves the addition of methyl groups during the formation of eggs or sperm.

The epigenetic modifications on imprinted genes typically stay put throughout the organism’s lifespan but undergo a reset during the formation of eggs and sperm. Regardless of their origin, certain genes are consistently silenced in eggs, while others are consistently silenced in sperm.

Soon after egg and sperm meet, most of the epigenetic tags that activate and silence genes are stripped from the DNA. However, in mammals, imprinted genes keep their epigenetic tags. Imprinted genes begin the process of development with epigenetic tags in place.

Imprinted genes are not the only genes that bypass epigenetic reprogramming in the early embryo. Studying imprinting may help researchers understand how other genes make it through reprogramming without losing their epigenetic tags.

The field of epigenetics and the imprintome has grown exponentially in the past decade, largely fueled by Randy Jirtle’s groundbreaking research.

Picture this: his 2003 study on how nutrition impacts gene regulation is the single most talked-about paper in the history of science. Jirtle’s discoveries have been a game-changer, unraveling secrets about human health and the roots of diseases.

In this week’s Everything Epigenetics podcast, I dive into a captivating conversation with Dr. Jirtle. We explore the fascinating intricacies of his research, unravel its profound implications for understanding disease development, and uncover the urgent call for more scientists to embark on the mesmerizing journey into the world of epigenetics.

In this podcast you’ll learn about:

– Details about Jirtle’s seminal 2003 Agouti mouse study
– The concept of imprinting and epigenetics
– The evolutionary biology approach
– How environmental and nutritional exposures can determine phenotypes through epigenetic regulation
– The profound impact that Jirtle had on the scientific community with his research
– The difference between somatic and germline imprintome regions
– The discovery of the full imprintome control regions in July 2022
– How to measure the imprintome with the imprintome array
– How the imprintome is starting to connect the dots to certain disease risks
– Future research on imprtinting and human evolution
– Challenges in researching the imprintome
– Pragmatic applications of the imprintome
– Excitement in current research

Where to find Dr. Randy Jirtle:
Website – https://www.geneimprint.com

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