Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fashionable Science

from Nature 455 23 October 2008
Epigenetic (adjective.)

Helen Pearson

No one denies that epigenetics is fashionable: its usage in PubMed papers increased by more than tenfold between 1997 and 2007. And few deny that epigenetics is important. What they do disagree on is what it is.



“Epigenetics is a useful word if you don't know what's going on — if you do, you use something else.”
Adrian Bird
A lot of money can ride on whether a researcher is, or is not, studying epigenetics: the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) this month started handing out US$190 million as part of its epigenomics initiative and other countries are pouring funding into the area. (The NIH is careful to define the epigenetics it is paying for as including both heritable and non-heritable changes in gene activity, something that Ptashne describes as "a complete joke".) Bird says he remains in favour of a relaxed usage. "Epigenetics is a useful word if you don't know what's going on — if you do, you use something else," he says.
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