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Switching particular subsets of genes on in different cells and different stages of development enables cells to have different identities and functions although they contain the same genetic information. If the switching process is disturbed, developmental abnormalities and cancer can result. Polycomb group and Trithorax group proteins can switch genes on and off during embryonic development. Valerio studies the Polycomb group of proteins, which silence genes in a heritable manner by controlling the structure and dynamics of chromatin. In particular, his team is eager to investigate the role of Polycomb group proteins and non-coding RNA in maintaining and, possibly reprogramming cell identity.