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UK, China Research Teams Partner on $31M Epigenetics Study

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Research teams in the UK and China have launched a new £20 million ($30.7 million) partnership to study epigenetic factors in thousands of pairs of twins in order to learn why many identical twins do not develop the same diseases as one another, King's College London said today.

Called the Epitwin study, the project is a joint effort involving King's College London and its twin-research group called TwinsUK, and Shenzhen, China-based genomic research organization BGI. The partners called it the largest epigentics project ever launched.

The study will harness King's College London's Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology department and will involve 5,000 twins. The project initially will focus on obesity, diabetes, allergies, heart disease, osteoporosis, and longevity.

"Finding the crucial differences between twins will lead us to the key genes that are being turned on and off, and so to the cause of disease, with great potential to find key targets for drug treatments," Tim Spector, director of TwinsUK and leader of the Epitwin project, said in a statement.

"The fact that twins are such a marvelous natural experiment, combined with the hundreds of disease details and traits on the twins that we have collected over 17 years, offer a unique study opportunity. So far this type of study has only been attempted on a handful of twins, so we want to scale it up – one thousand fold," Spector continued.

"Epigenetics is one of our major targets for the next five years – and this combination of our technology and resources with the unique twin resource will provide the world with an unprecedented dataset," added BGI Executive Director Jun Wang. "We hope to unlock many secrets about human genetics that we don't currently understand, and to accelerate research and applications in human healthcare."

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