Epigenetics is one of the hottest fields in the life sciences. It’s a phenomenon with wide-ranging, powerful effects on many aspects of biology, and enormous potential in human medicine. As such, its ability to fill in some of the gaps in our scientific knowledge is mentioned everywhere from academic journals to the mainstream media to some of the less scientifically rigorous corners of the Internet.

  • Wondering why identical twins aren’t actually, well, identical? Epigenetics!
  • Want to blame your parents for something that doesn’t seem to be genetic? Epigenetics!
  • Got a weird result from an experiment that doesn’t seem to make sense? Epigenetics!
  • Want to think yourself healthy? That’s not epigenetics! (Sorry ‘bout that).

But what exactly is epigenetics – and does the reality live up to the hype?

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