MD Sandy
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Genetic project

Postby MD Sandy » Sun Nov 02, 2014 5:16 pm

Hi I'm an identical twin and my sister and I would like some input on our science fair project. We want to do a project on epigenetics and twins. We got our DNA tested when we were very young to verify the zygosity (verify if we where monozygotic of dizygotic). So we where thinking of get thing our DNA tested again (17 years later) and try to look at epigenome differences. The goal is to see how our genome has changed from when we were little to now. Is this possible.
FYI we are also part of a twins study and they are our DNA from when we where younger.

Gaby

SciB
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Re: Genetic project

Postby SciB » Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:11 pm

Hi Gaby,

That’s a great idea for a science project—combining research with personal interest.

Epigenetics for those who may not be familiar with the term refers to changes to the DNA (or RNA) that do NOT involve changes in the base sequence. These changes include methylation of specific bases such as cytosine at CpG sites and alterations in the binding of histone proteins to DNA. Both methylation and histone binding change whether or not a gene can be transcribed and this alters the protein makeup of a cell and thereby its function.

My question to you is which genes are you going to look at and how are you going to detect epigenetic changes? As I understand it, zygosity testing is like DNA fingerprinting—a number of specific base sequences are amplified by PCR and compared. This is genetic information, however, not epigenetic. Determining which genes are silenced or active requires some pretty sophisticated lab tests that are very different from sequencing.

You said you were part of a twins study. Are the study’s scientists part of a lab that does epigenetics? You would still have to pick some specific genes to look at since it would take too long to compare every one of the 20,000 or so active genes. The researchers can help you in choosing what to compare. Have you checked PubMed to see if there are published twin studies that looked at epigenetics? Search for open-access papers that are free to download and read.

Let us know how you plan to set up this project and we will try to help with the details.

Good luck!

Sybee

connief
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Re: Genetic project

Postby connief » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:00 pm

Hi Gaby,

I agree with the previous expert that this is a very interesting idea! But as SciB mentioned, epigenetic changes refer to modifications of the genetic material (i.e. methylation) that does not involve changes in the nucleotide sequence. Hence, if you sequence your genome along with your twin sister's genome, the nucleotide sequences will likely look exactly the same. To detect epigenetic changes, that requires more sophisticated molecular techniques. For example, there is something called bisulfite sequencing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisulfite_sequencing) that allows you determine patterns of methylation on genetic material. However, I'm not sure how readily available and accessible this type of technique is to people who don't work in labs. I agree with SciB that perhaps you can contact the lab that you worked with for your twins study to see if they can help you with developing your idea, or if they can direct you to other labs that can help you. Here are some articles on epigenetics and twins at which you may be interested in taking a look:

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/ ... ics/twins/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3063335/
http://www.pnas.org/content/102/30/10604.abstract

Let us know if you have anymore questions!

Connie

caraskl
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Occupation: I am recent graduate of Pacific Lutheran University. I hold a B.S. with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. I am searching for a career in science communications or in laboratory science.

Re: Genetic project

Postby caraskl » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:16 am

Hi,

You may also be interested in the following sites

Epigenetics and autoimmune disease in twins--this article shows how epigenetics reveal the influence of environment on the development of autoimmune diseases
http://genome.cshlp.org/site/press/gr100289.xhtml

A twin approach to unraveling epigenetics by Bell and Spector (2011)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3063335/

Twin study finds epigenetic imprint on autism traits
http://sfari.org/news-and-opinion/news/ ... ism-traits

Disease-associated epigenetic changes in monozygotic twins discordant for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/e ... dr416.full

I hope these help


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