DNA and Epigenetics: Understanding the Blueprint of Life (Part 2)

Biomedical Sciences

By: Patrick Brown, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

miceIn Part I of my discussion of DNA and epigenetics, I described how DNA is first converted into mRNA via transcription, then mRNA is translated into protein. Once proteins are made from this genetic code, they can begin doing work in cells.

I ended the last article with the question: how does the body choose which genes are expressed in which cells? Here I will discuss the concept of epigenetics and its role in shaping protein expression.

We can see the effects of epigenetics all around us. Many proteins are expressed differently between males and females – these proteins are under epigenetic control. If epigenetic marks are abnormal, then certain cancers become more prevalent. The most visible difference in epigenetic marks is seen in the coat color of the agouti mouse. Each mouse pictured (above) is genetically identical, but contains different amounts of a specific epigenetic mark. How can they have the same genes, but have different coat colors?

DNA and Epigenetics: Understanding the Blueprint of Life

Biomedical Sciences

By: Patrick Brown, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

DNA StrandsDue to hit shows like CSI and The Big Bang Theory as well as an increase in news reporting, there is a growing interest in the various fields of biological science. As a scientist, I encourage everyone to learn more about the processes and molecules that make life possible. Unfortunately, it can be a daunting task for someone unfamiliar with science jargon to get simple questions answered or learn more about a topic of interest to them. So where to begin? Let’s start with the building block of life: DNA.