noun, plural in form but singular in construction
epi·​ge·​net·​ics | \ ˌe-pə-jə-ˈne-tiks How to pronounce epigenetics (audio) \

Definition of epigenetics

: the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence

Examples of epigenetics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This effect is what scientists refer to epigenetics - the study of how heritable traits and the environment affect what genes get turned on and off. Gabriel A. Silva, Forbes, "Here’s What Happens To The Brain Under Stress - From Childhood To Adulthood," 5 Apr. 2021 AstraZeneca also credited him with leading work in antibody drug conjugates — an ultra-targeted form of chemotherapy that Cortes compared to a molecular Trojan horse — as well as cell therapy and epigenetics. Washington Post, "José Baselga, pioneer in breast cancer treatment, dies at 61," 24 Mar. 2021 It could be explained by epigenetics -- how behavior and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work -- and impaired organ development that could affect your chances of having diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Preemies may have greater risk of premature death as adults, study suggests," 20 Jan. 2021 It’s all thanks to a process called epigenetics — a form of gene expression that can be inherited but isn’t actually part of the genetic code. Quanta Magazine, "The Epigenetic Secrets Behind Dopamine, Drug Addiction and Depression," 27 Oct. 2020 Even more startling is the emerging epigenetics research demonstrating that stressors endured in the present can modify genes and potentially be passed from one generation to the next. Chijioke Nze, STAT, "Police brutality is our lane too, doctors say," 5 June 2020 There are already several molecules targeting human epigenetics in a similar way under preclinical development or in clinical trials. Smithsonian, "Instead of Killing Bacteria, Can We Just “Turn Off” Its Ability To Cause Infections?," 14 Dec. 2017 For one, the hot new field of epigenetics has made Lysenko-like ideas fashionable. Sam Kean, The Atlantic, "The Soviet Era's Deadliest Scientist Is Regaining Popularity in Russia," 19 Dec. 2017 In an essay for Nautilus about his own impoverished upbringing, Christian Cooper cited emerging—and controversial—science about the epigenetics of poverty. Sarah Jones, New Republic, "Why Conservatives Blame Poverty on the Poor," 25 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'epigenetics.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of epigenetics

1942, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for epigenetics

epi- + genetics, after epigenesis and phenogenetics "developmental genetics," borrowed from German Phänogenetik, from phäno- (in Phänotypus phenotype entry 1) + Genetik genetics

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Time Traveler for epigenetics

Time Traveler

The first known use of epigenetics was in 1942

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Last Updated

19 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Epigenetics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epigenetics. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for epigenetics


noun plural but singular in construction
epi·​ge·​net·​ics | \ -iks How to pronounce epigenetics (audio) \

Medical Definition of epigenetics

: the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence At its most basic, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code but still get passed down to at least one successive generation.— John Cloud, Time, 18 Jan. 2010 Epigenetics is the study of the chemical groups that stick to DNA and act as switches to turn genes on and off.New Scientist, 7 July 2006

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