In this week's Science, three international research groups reported new details on epigenetic factors that trigger the development of different components of the immune system. In the first paper, a group led by Radboud University's Hendrik Stunnenberg documents various epigenetic changes that prompt monocytes to transition into different types of macrophages with distinct immune functions. In the second report, a team led by Mihai Netea, also at Radboud, focuses on trained immunity — wherein an organism lacking an adaptive immune system can still protect itself from reinfection — identifying an epigenetic switch that determines whether human monocytes are able to mount a trained immune response to a particular pathogen. Lastly, a Cambridge University-led team uncovers the specific isoform of hematopoietic stem cells associated with their differentiation into blood platelets, providing new insights into how epigenetics influences cellular differentiation. GenomeWeb Daily News has more on these studies here.
Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, William Hait of Janssen Research and Development and Arnold Levine from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey discuss the complexity of cancer genomics and how this may influence drug development. Specifically, they point to the relative genomic simplicity of pre-malignant tissue versus mature cancers as an opportunity to identify therapeutic targets that can treat cancers before they appear.