Archive for the ‘Epigenetics’ Category

You Can Change Your Genes

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Sweden’s northernmost county, Norrbotten, averages only six people per square mile. Yet this tiny population reveals a lot about genes and how they work in our everyday lives.

In the 1980s, Dr. Lars Olov Bygren, a preventative-health specialist became interested in how “feast and famine” effected children growing up in that area. His studies showed that children who overate in the good years died 32 years sooner than those who grew up and endured a poor harvest.

The answer lies with the new science epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code but still get passed down to at least one successive generation. These patterns of gene expression are governed by the cellular material – the epigenome – that sits on top of the genome. It is through epigenetic marks that environmental factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can make an imprint on genes that is passed from one generation to the next.

Epigenetics brings both good news and bad.

First the bad news: there’s evidence that lifestyle choices like smoking and eating too much can change the epigenetic marks atop your DNA in ways the caused the genes for obesity to express themselves too strongly and the genes for longevity to express themselves too weakly. We all know that you can cut your life short if you smoke or overeat, but it’s becoming clear that those same bad behaviors can also predispose your kids – before they are even conceived – to disease and early death.

Now the good news: scientists are learning to manipulate epigenetic marks in the lab, which means they are developing drugs that treat illness simply by silencing bad genes and jump-starting good ones.

So take care in how you live.

By John Cloud, Jan. 06, 2010; Time, Health & Science


Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The wonderful world of change. Epigenetics brings in a new search about human development and disease.

“Epigenetics” — a rapidly growing research field that investigates heritable alterations in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in DNA sequence.

The definition is intended to address confusion within the scientific community about the distinction between the mechanisms of epigenetic memory during early development versus those of dynamic chromatin regulation involved in differential expression of genes throughout adult life. The mechanisms underlying epigenetic memory are of great importance to human development and disease, but they are poorly understood.

The proposed definition reads: “an epigenetic trait is a stably inherited phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence.”