All somatic cells of a body have the same genome. But each of them can present a different gene expression profile depending on the epigenetic marks that, acting as molecular switches, activate or deactivate these sequences. These regulatory systems, globally known as the epigenome, include the chemical modification of the genetic fragments and the histones, or changes in the accessibility and make-up of the DNA.
In October 2011, an international consortium of scientists launched the project BLUEPRINT, an initiative backed by thirty million euros in funding from the European Commission. The goal was to determine how genes are activated or repressed; in other words, trace the epigenetic blueprint of blood cells. The secrets of the mechanisms that activate and repress gene expression are fundamental to understanding the appearance of certain pathologies related with blood cells, such as different types of cancer, diabetes or autoimmune diseases.
This discovery has brought epigenetics, a discipline that is changing the way we understand biology, back into focus. In 2011, the bioentrepreneur and researcher Nessa Carey drew a curious comparison in her book The Epigenetics Revolution: