The aim of this project is to capture the subtle epigenetic profiles that mark the differences between 5,000 twins on a scale and depth never before attempted.
The EpiTwin project, in collaboration with the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), is one of the most ambitious large-scale projects in Human Genetics. The plan is to focus on the methylation patterns of 20 million sites (called CpG islands) in the DNA obtained from whole blood for each twin and compare them with the patterns in their co-twin. Rather than looking at similarities as in previous studies, the team will be looking for differences that explain why many identical twins don't develop the same diseases. Initially the team will focus on obesity, diabetes, allergies, heart disease, osteoporosis and longevity, but the method can be applied to every common trait or disease.
The project is estimated to cost approximately £20 million which will be a cost that is shared by the two groups and supported by a Senior Investigator award to Professor Spector for the EpiTwin project by the European Research Council.
As part of the EpiTwin project , a number of subprojects have been made possible. These include: