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Nursing Research and Practice
Volume 2013, Article ID 503686, 5 pages
Review Article

Epigenetics in Critical Illness: A New Frontier

College of Nursing, University of South Florida, 12091 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, MDC22, Tampa, FL 33612-4766, USA

Received 17 April 2013; Accepted 16 June 2013

Academic Editor: Susan Dorsey

Copyright © 2013 Brian T. Graves and Cindy L. Munro. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Epigenetics is the study of alterations in the function of genes that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence. Within the critical care literature, it is a relatively new and exciting avenue of research in describing pathology, clinical course, and developing targeted therapies to improve outcomes. In this paper, we highlight current research relative to critical care that is focused within the major epigenetic mechanisms of DNA methylation, histone modification, microRNA regulation, and composite epigenetic scoring. Within this emerging body of research it is quite clear that the novel therapies of the future will require clinicians to understand and navigate an even more complex and multivariate relationship between genetic, epigenetic, and biochemical mechanisms in conjunction with clinical presentation and course in order to significantly improve outcomes within the acute and critically ill population.