Wolf Reik is a molecular biologist who has made a series of spectacular discoveries relating to the control system — known as epigenetics — that normally ensures the stable expression of our genes. His work revealed that these mechanisms depend on the addition of simple compounds called methyl groups to a proportion of the adenine and cytosine bases that make up half of our DNA.
Wolf also discovered that mammalian eggs, sperm and embryos undergo extensive epigenetic reprogramming as methyl groups are stripped away and reattached. This can be affected by factors in the environment, so that the consequences of these exposures can pass from one generation to another.
Currently Wolf is exploring how global reprogramming enables stem cells to adopt a variety of adult identities. These insights may lead to better strategies for regenerative medicine, using stem cells to repair diseased tissues, and also to better understanding of the ageing process.
Honorary Group Leader, Laboratory of Developmental Genetics and Imprinting, Babraham Institute Director, Cambridge Institute of Science (UK), Altos Labs
Interest and expertise
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Biochemistry and molecular biology
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
Developmental biology, Genetics (excluding population genetics)