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[Review] Principles of DNA methylation and their implications for biology and medicine

DNA methylation represents an annotation system for marking the genetic text, thus providing instruction as to how and when to read the information and control transcription. Unlike sequence information, which is inherited, methylation patterns are established in a programmed process that continues throughout development, thus setting up stable gene expression profiles. This DNA methylation paradigm is a key player in medicine. Some changes in methylation closely correlate with age providing a marker for biological ageing, and these same sites could also play a part in cancer.