Page URL:

Ministers urged to use epigenetic research when tackling public health problems

17 September 2012
Appeared in BioNews 673

Significant improvements could be made to public health by building upon the findings of epigenetic research, according to a leading expert on epigenetics and child health.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Genetics at University College London's Institute of Child Health and Visiting Professor of Paediatric Genetics at the University of Bristol, says that the appointment of new health ministers as part of this month's government reshuffle marks an opportunity to take a fresh approach to tackling the UK's largest public health problems.

Upon being appointed as public health minister, Anna Soubry told the press that health is as much about culture as it is about NHS reform, pointing to the example of obesity and overconsumption. But Professor Pembrey says ministers need to understand that culture impacts not only the health of the present generation but, in some circumstances, also the health of future generations via epigenetics.

'Public health needs to embrace epigenetic research if it is to understand, and so tackle, the rise in obesity', says Professor Pembrey.

'Epigenetics is the science of enduring but ultimately reversible changes in the pattern of gene activity that do not involve alteration of the DNA sequence. Early life experience, and even the age at which your father started smoking, seem to influence the risk of obesity'.

'The pattern of epigenetic marks on DNA can reflect the prevailing environment. It is now possible to analyse this pattern from the tiny blood spots that are taken from newborn babies during the heel prick test'.

Professor Pembrey made his comments prior to his presentation 'Are Early Life and Ancestral Experiences Captured by Our Genomes?' given on Monday 17 September 2012, at the British Society for Human Genetics Annual Conference, held at the University of Warwick.

Home Page
|  17 September 2012
30 August 2016 - by Dr Ashley Cartwright 
Researchers in the US have found that Hispanic individuals age slower than people from other ethnic backgrounds...
17 June 2013 - by Holly Rogers 
A beginner's tour guide through genetics and epigenetics, this booklet covers much of the fundamental biology behind genetic illness and gives a broad overview of some of the biggest challenges currently faced by researchers in the field. It does not assume any previous knowledge, and gives clear, concise summaries of key historical figures and theories, including a very useful glossary at the back....
10 September 2012 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
In her new book, 'The Epigenetics Revolution', Nessa Carey argues that we are in the midst of the next great upheaval in biological thinking...
23 April 2012 - by Ruth Pidsley 
Epigenetics has become something of a hot topic in recent years throughout the scientific community. 'Epigenetics: Linking Genotype and Phenotype in Development and Evolution', edited by Professors Benedikt Hallgrímsson and Brian Hall, reminds a new generation of molecular and systems biologists about the historical roots and scope of epigenetics...
31 January 2012 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Unhealthy lifestyles associated with social deprivation may have detrimental effects on DNA before birth, say scientists. A study of adults living in Glasgow shows a correlation between deprivation and DNA methylation - a normal process that occurs mainly during embryonic development and regulates gene activity...
24 October 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Living conditions during childhood may have a long-term effect on DNA, according to new research by British and Canadian scientists. The findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, may explain why some people who grow up in socioeconomic deprivation have health disadvantages later in life, despite improvements in their living conditions in adulthood...
7 December 2009 - by Dr Aarathi Prasad 
Session 3 of the Progress Educational Trust's annual conference (PET), held on Wednesday 18 November 2009 at Clifford Chance, was chaired by Professor Dian Donnai,Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of Manchester, and started with a talk by Karen Temple, Professor of Medical Genetics and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics at the University of Southampton and Wessex Clinical Genetics Service. Professor Temple gave an intriguing talk on the influence of parent...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.