10 November 2010

A Fine Meth (ylome) You've Gotten Us Into This Time

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The methylome is the pattern of DNA methylation in cells as they become relatively differentiated. Methylomics is a branch of epigenetics -- non-coding control of gene expression. Even identical twins will have different gene expression, in part due to differing methylomes. Methylomes of cancer cells are of particular interest to medical scientists.

Chinese scientists have decoded the methylome of mature peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The tools they used may prove useful for decoding the methylomes of other types of mature and cancerous cells.
. Understanding the mechanisms and functions of DNA methylation and how it varies from tissue to tissue and between individuals will have profound implications for human health and disease.

A team of Chinese researchers decoded the essentially complete methylome (an inventory of all the bases that are methylated) of the human genome using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). The results are published in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

The research is part of YanHuang (YH) Project, which has been launched by BGI (previous known as Beijing Genomics Institute) at Shenzhen, which aims to sequence 100 Chinese individuals in 3 years to accelerate the discovery of disease genes and mutations in an Asian population.

...The research not only provides a comprehensive resource for future epigenomic research but also demonstrates a paradigm for epigenetic studies through new sequencing technology. The PBMC methylome data has been deposited to NCBI (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Traces/sra/, accession number: SRA008544). It is expected to form a lasting resource as part of the International Human Epigenome Project. _SD
The methylome is a unique signature of the development of a particular cell or cell type. This development was affected by both the individual's genome and his environment. A person's methylome -- in its unbelievable complexity -- is but one more way in which persons are different from each other.

We have only begun to comprehend how much we have yet to learn.

Update 10Nov10: U of Chicago researchers have made an important discovery into the nature of "demethylation" of DNA

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