The development and maintenance of a multicellular organism is orchestrated by a set of chemical reactions that switch parts of the genome off and on at strategic times and locations. The cells in a multicellular organism have nominally identical DNA sequences (and therefore the same genetic instruction sets), yet maintain different terminal phenotypes. Genetic mechanisms alone cannot explain how these cellular traits are propagated. This non-genetic cellular memory, which records developmental and environmental cues (and alternative cell states in unicellular organisms), is the basis of epi-(above)–genetics. A cells epigenetic landscape is governed by "chromatin" which is a complex of DNA and all its associated proteins including histones. The lack of identified genetic determinants that fully explain the heritability of complex traits, and the inability to pinpoint causative genetic effects in some complex diseases, suggest possible epigenetic explanations for this missing information. This growing interest, along with the desire to understand the "deprogramming" of differentiated cells into pluripotent/totipotent states, has led to "epigenetic" becoming a hot research area focused on DNA methylation, histone modification, nucleosome location, or noncoding RNA. The role of epigenetics in the etiology of human disease, especially cancer, is increasingly recognized with the most obvious evidence found for genes subject to genomic imprinting. The research field of "epigenetic therapy" aiming at converting epigenetic changes to the "normal epigenome" is very promising, as a number of drugs targeting "epigenetic therapy" are being approved by the FDA. All in all, a comprehensive understanding of epigenetic mechanisms, their interactions and alterations in health and disease, has become a priority in biomedical research.

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