Europe Pours $41 Million Into Epigenome

The European Commission takes a major step towards unraveling the secrets of human epigenetics.

Sep 29, 2011
Edyta Zielinska

BloodCDC, JANICE HANEY CARR

The European Commission has promised 30 million Euro ($41 million) to fund 41 institutions across Europe to study the epigenome as a part of a project called BLUEPRINT. The EC's project is one arm of the International Epigenome Consortium (IHEC), which was started last year. The IHEC will coordinate the efforts of member agencies from the EU, United States, Japan, and other countries to generate a reference epigenome that can be used in much the same way that the human genome is used by researchers today.

"BLUEPRINT is the first big epigenome project to be specifically created in alignment with the IHEC mission," Peter Jones from the University of Southern California told Nature. The project will focus on generating the epigenomes of 60 different blood cell types from samples in United Kingdom's national blood bank. In addition, they will compare some of the markers across 100 healthy people to look for individual differences.  In addition to looking at healthy individuals, BLUEPRINT researchers will study the epigenomes of blood cancers.

"Blood epigenomes are particularly exciting because we know an awful lot about the biology of how blood stem cells differentiate, but little about the sequence of epigenomic events involved in the processes that are going to be relevant for disease," Jones, who is part of IHEC's scientific steering committee, told Nature.