Understanding the Epigenome’s Role in Cancer May lead to New Clinical Pathology Laboratory Tests

Disruptive technology drops the cost of DNA methylation sequencing by 100-fold

As sequencing of individual human genomes becomes more affordable and useful, the next big hurdle in genetic science will be to map the human epigenome. While DNA provides the blueprint for building a human being, the epigenome determines the details of how that blueprint is expressed in an individual. Pathologists and clinical laboratory administrators will want to track efforts to map and understand the human epigenome.

The epigenome is a set of chemical modifications to the genome that are not encoded in the DNA but which modulate how and when genes are expressed. Methylation is only one marker in the complex epigenetic map, but it is an important one. Methylation suppresses gene activity, and is thought to be responsible for suppressing some genes that prevent cancer. Though researchers are a long way from using this knowledge to cure cancer or other diseases, faster, more affordable DNA methylation sequencing will help move that research forward.