The goal of research in our group is to develop and apply novel tools to probe epigenetic modifications, thereby understanding their functions in human health and disease (Figure). To do so, we combine various chemical biology, biophysics and genomic approaches to analyze the epigenome. We also utilize the epigenetic information in body fluids for non-invasive for disease diagnostics, including early detection of cancer. In addition, we are investigating the epigenetic heterogeneity of tumours to understand the contribution of epigenetics to cancer.
1. Dynamic interplay between epigenetic marks
Although much has been learnt about how dynamic changes in epigenetic modifications regulate transcription and cellular differentiation, much remains unknown and technological improvements are required to enable more sensitive and specific analyses. We develop single-molecule tools to study the dynamic spatial and temporal interplay among various DNA, histone and RNA epigenetic marks to discover novel epigenetic regulators and mechanisms.
2. Epigenetic-based diagnostics
The epigenomic state is dynamic and tightly regulated, and misregulation of epigenetic patterns are hallmarks in many human diseases including many types of cancer. Therefore, epigenetic modifications are valuable biomarkers for diagnostics. We develop sensitive tools to explore the wealth of epigenetic information in body fluids, such as circulating cell-free DNA, to broaden the use of epigenetic biomarkers for non-invasive disease diagnostics, including early cancer detection and treatment monitoring.
3. Epigenetic heterogeneity of tumours
Epigenetic factors are known to have pivotal roles in tumour development and maintenance. It is also becoming clear that tumour tissue is highly heterogeneous in terms of the genome, transcriptome and epigenome. We aim to develop novel single-cell technologies to study the epigenetic heterogeneity of tumours. Defining cell lineages within a tumour based on epigenetic profiling may provide insights to identity crucial events in tumour development and to guide cancer prevention and therapeutics.