Genetics we cannot really change, but methylation is reversible so medicines targeting methylations could help to cure epigenetic diseases in the future. But medical research is still at the very beginning of understanding how small numbers of the tens of millions of marks could be changed through gene-specific DNA modification enzymes.
What can we do with this map of the epigenome?
This ‘map' is a template for future studies by providing the first baseline, just like the human genome now provides a baseline for comparisons of human genomes from all over the world.
It shows many genes that are under epigenetic control that we did not know about, and the importance of different kinds of methylation and how they influence genes.
This template can help us design tests to screen for epigenetic diseases, because it points to where to look for changes. It can help researchers who are developing medicines to influence methylation and turn off cancer cells.
It is providing a new understanding of how stem cells are so unique and how they maintain their ability to become any cell in our bodies.
In the future, a person may have his or her genome sequenced to uncover genetic propensity to disease or highlight special potentials. But the epigenome could also be analysed to see the effect of a person's (or their parent's) environment or diet on which genes are tuned up or down through epigenetic marking.