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Robert would like to know how imprinted genes, whose destiny to be switched on or off is predetermined by their parental origin, influence the development of the embryo into a fully formed organism and the development of extra-embryonic tissues such as the placenta. A fairly large number of imprinted genes have been discovered, yet how cells recognise which gene was inherited from dad and which from mum is not altogether clear. DNA methylation, a chemical modification of DNA, contributes to this recognition process in embryos. Robert is researching how chemical modifications of histone proteins may be involved in imprinting.