Advancing Epigenetics Towards Systems Biology



The power of science

With the dawn of any new technology, society has to be wary of the potential for its misuse, especially in the case of powerful technologies that could alter the world as we know it. Epigenetics offers us the potential to reprogramme genomes without genetic modification. This new knowledge underlies cloning technologies and the application of stem-cell based therapies, both of which have been the subject of considerable controversy. But such technologies have great potential for good in the right hands. What's more, European legislation surrounding cloning and human embryonic stem cell research severely restricts the possibilities for misuse.

Brona McVittie reports :: June 2006

Here's what the scientists say

"Research on stem cells could pave the way for the discovery of new therapeutic agents that may cure or even prevent some of the most debilitating human diseases. We all collectively have to decide whether these investigations are justified because very early embryos are needed, at least at present, to create stem cells for research. Should we turn away from a unique opportunity that may revolutionise treatment of diseases, including cancers, or should we approach this question sensitively with the appropriate ethical guidelines where clear rules are established so that we can move forward? Scientists don't have all the answers but without further research, we will never know what medical advances are possible, and which may even make it possible to generate stem cells directly from adult cells without the use of embryos."
Azim Surani (Cambridge, UK)

"I spoke to my hairdresser once about my job when I was working with transgenic frogs. After hearing what I did, she said 'What a shame. You shouldn't be doing this. God created the frog to be the way it is and you shouldn't try to change it'. On the other hand many people believe that human cloning and stem cell research can work wonders. There is no doubt that stem cells have great therapeutic potential. However, we still have some way to go before completely understanding how the genome works."
Irina Stancheva (Edinburgh, UK)

"The long-standing question of nature versus nurture begs the question: to what extent does genetic determination vis-a-vis environment-driven signals affect the development and personal profiles of given individuals? Thanks to epigenetic research, we now know there are mechanisms beyond genetic determinism (there is no 'intelligent design') and that gives us the freedom to live as true individuals. This is best exemplified by genetically identical twins that can develop distinct disease profiles and life projections. Thus, 'we are more than the sum of our genes', and epigenetic research is likely to have significant impact on cultural and ethical values in our 'post-genomic' society."
Thomas Jenuwein (Vienna, Austria)

"You never know where basic research will lead. Einstein predicted that it was possible to make an atom bomb. He didn't like it, but he predicted it was possible and he couldn't stop it once the knowledge was out there. I guess it's our duty as scientists to keep the people informed of what's possible and what's not. But the ultimate decision of how it's used, I'm not sure that's ours; it belongs to society. The problem is that politics and public opinion always lag about 5 years behind on these topics. Formally, every piece of foreign DNA that we stick in any organism whether it is a bacterium or fruit fly, requires a permit."
Bas van Steensel (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Mon, May 29th 2017- Wed, May 31st 2017

After last year's successful kick-off meeting, the EpiGeneSwiss meeting will take place again in Weggis, Switzerland. This year we have added one day in addition to accommodate more topics and more t...

Mon, Jun 19th 2017- Wed, Jun 21st 2017

The focus of the 2017 IMB Conference is on “Gene Regulation by the Numbers: Quantitative Approaches to Study Transcription”. The conference will explore the latest findings and technological developme...

Tue, Jul 11th 2017- Thu, Jul 13th 2017

The MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol invites all professionals interested in aetiological epidemiology and Mendelian randomization to attend our conference on the subject...

Wed, Aug 30th 2017- Fri, Sep 1st 2017

The nucleosome is the fundamental building block of chromatin organisation and genome function. The 20th anniversary of the high resolution nucleosome structure marks a milestone for bringing together...


EpiGeneSys Final
Meeting in Paris

Thur. 11 February 2016 - Sat. 13 February 2016

More than 280 scientists attended the fifth Annual Meeting of EpiGeneSys. The conference kicked off with a talk by coordinator Geneviève Almouzni, Director of the Research Center at the Institut Curie, highlighting the achievements of the network over more than five years...

Maison des océans - Paris Read more


The Non-Coding Genome ...

December 3-4 th, 2015

The last training workshop of the EpiGeneSys network

Hotel Mediterraneo - Rome, Italy Read more

Paris / TriRhena Chromatin Club

July 9th, 2015

...exciting talks and network with members of the Chromatin community!

... An EpiGeneSys TAB workshop

June 11st-12nd , 2015

... learn about current approaches to single cell epigenetics and to meet up and network with...

Montpellier, FranceRead more

Latest publications


The impact of rare and low-frequency genetic variants in common disease.

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Stable Polycomb-dependent transgenerational inheritance of chromatin states in Drosophila.

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Stable Polycomb-dependent transgenerational inheritance of chromatin states in Drosophila.

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