A Era da Epigenética

LONDRES – Há cinquenta e um anos atrás, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins e Francis Crick receberam o Prémio Nobel da Medicina pela descoberta da estrutura do ADN - uma descoberta que marcou o início da era do gene. Desde então, o campo da genética evoluiu significativamente, principalmente como resultado do Projecto mundial do Genoma Humano que, em 2003, identificou os cerca de 23 mil genes e três mil milhões de pares de bases químicas do ADN humano, com o objectivo de rastrear muitas doenças raras.

Mas, apesar das evidências de que a maioria das doenças tem uma componente genética definida, apenas foi descoberta uma fracção dos genes que as explicam. E os cientistas ligados a essa área continuam intrigados com o facto de que a maioria dos gémeos idênticos (que partilham 100% dos seus genes) não morre em consequência das mesmas doenças. Como resultado, muitos elementos da comunidade científica começam a prever um declínio do papel do gene na identificação da causa raiz das doenças.

No entanto, é prematuro descartar a genética, porque a ciência da "epigenética" - o estudo dos mecanismos para ligar e desligar os genes, alterando assim a forma como a célula se desenvolve, sem alterar o código genético - está a ganhar força. Na verdade, em 2012 o Prémio Nobel de Medicina foi atribuído a John Gurdon e a Shinya Yamanaka por revolucionarem o conhecimento dos cientistas relativamente à forma como as células se desenvolvem através da reprogramação do ADN e das células, sem alterar a sua estrutura genética.

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