So, what is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics refers to the study of heritable changes in our genome (the complete set of all our genes) that occur without altering the DNA or genetic code. 

But what does this actually mean?  – Find out more in our videos below:


Last year, Professor Susan Clark and her team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research presented a public seminar series on epigenetics.

The scientists discussed a wide range of topics, explaining what epigenetics means, describing its role in our health, and sharing some of thier research into its role in disease.

These videos give us wonderful insight into the world of epigenetics research.

Epigenetics: the what, why & how – Prof Susan Clark

A look at epigenetics in 3D – Dr Amanda Khoury

Epigenetic inheritance: you are what your ancestors ate – Dr Ksenia Skvortsova

Epigenetics and the environment: impact on obesity and metabolic disorder susceptibility – Dr Stephen Bradford

Demystifying epigenetics

Kate Giles and Amanda Khoury from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research explain epigenetics and why they love it:

“There’s a layer that sits above the DNA that can influence whether the gene is turned on or off.”

“If your DNA is words and letters on a page your epigenetics is the marks you might make on that.”

Tagging DNA: Mislabelling the Cancer Genome

How can cells that contain the same DNA be so different?

This simple question is posed right at the beginning of the latest 3D animation created by Dr Kate Patterson of the Garvan Institute as part of ‘VIZBIplus: Visualising the Future of Biomedicine’.

Read more in our news blog or read Kate’s own words in The Conversation.

Want to know more?

Maybe some of your questions will be answered here:
What's the difference between Genetics and Epigenetics?
While Genetics is the study of genes, and variation in inherited characteristics due to differences in DNA sequence, Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence – biological mechanisms that cause a change in phenotype (observed characteristics) without a change in genotype (genetic sequence).
Why is Epigenetics important?
Epigenetic gene regulation is fundamental to the life of all eukaryotic organisms; it creates phenotypic variation not only within an individual, but also between individuals. Epigenetic modifications allow cells with precisely the same genomes to adopt a multitude of phenotypes based on the activation of some gene regions and the silencing of others. In addition, epigenetic modifications that mediate genome function are responsive to and may be modified by environmental cues.
How can I become an Epigeneticist?
Most epigeneticists have undertaken molecular biology/biology courses in a science degree with honours. They then spend a number of years in post-graduate studies, usually to earn a PhD, followed by post-doctoral research. Many epigenetics labs, including labs associated with the Australian Epigenetics Alliance, take on interested undergraduate summer school students and honours students, through their affiliated universities, and may also accept interested work experience students.
Is 'Epigeneticist' even a real word?
Yes it is! – well, depending on which dictionary you search, but the word epigeneticist has been around since the ’20s and we’ve found it in at least one dictionary.