Our research features take a more in-depth look at selected aspects of our research and the wider impacts of our science for the wider world. Browse all of these articles in the reader window below or access specific features directly from the introductions further down the page. These features were originally produced as part of our Annual Research Reports.
This feature was written by Becky Allen for the Annual Research Report 2016
When the first draft of the human genome was published in 2001, it was described as a treasure trove of information. But using that information to understand disease demands going far beyond the DNA code. Now, researchers at the Institute are pioneering a new method of mapping our genome’s complex regulatory interactions that could open up new ways to treat genetic diseases and understand ageing.
Every cell type in our body results from a different reading of the same genome. Over the past 30 years, scientists have learned that our genes are controlled by epigenetics – a combination of processes that switch genes on and off without altering the DNA sequence itself. But much of epigenetics remains a mystery. The Institute’s Epigenetics programme is exploring the earliest stages of life and how understanding this could help reprogramme cells for regenerative medicine applications in the future.
In 1796, a doctor in rural Gloucestershire took pus from a cowpox lesion on a milkmaid’s hand to inoculate an eight-year-old boy against smallpox. More than 230 years after Edward Jenner’s pioneering vaccination, we still don’t fully understand how our immune system works. Now, researchers in the Institute’s Immunology programme have uncovered a new layer of regulation in immune cells – a discovery that could have far-reaching implications for vaccines, cancer and healthier ageing.
For many years regarded as merely a cell biological process, autophagy is now implicated in many diseases. Thanks to progress made in the Signalling research programme this year autophagy – the mechanism cells use to recycle unwanted or damaged components to create molecules they need – is now understood in greater detail than ever before. We find out how research at the Institute could harness autophagy to help us age more healthily.