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Research conducted at the Queen Mary University of London by Cancer Epigenetics Society Member, Dr. Gabriella Ficz and her collaborators, shows that an epigenetic alteration of just one gene is sufficient to drive normal breast cells to pre-neoplastic stages, a discovery that may impact cancer screening and treatment.
Until now, scientists were not able to decisively tease out whether epigenetic abnormalities (a.k.a. epimutations) are phenomenological bystanders or tumorigenesis, or whether they can initiate cancer on their own.
With the help of an epigenetic editing tool (using CRISPR-dCas9), Dr. Ficz and her colleagues methylated various genes in normal breast cells, which led cells to proliferate. Hyperplasia is one of the early stages of cancer initiation. Furthermore, the epimutations introduced into the initially healthy breast cells were stably passed on to the next cell generations, establishing epimutations as heritable aberrant epigenet.....