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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Human Genome to Change with Age

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said individual human genomes change throughout a person's life influenced by environmental or nutritional factors that may explain why illnesses such as cancer come with age. Such changes could also be hereditary that might explain why some families are more affected by certain diseases than others are.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that the so-called epigenetic marks on the sequence of a person's DNA modify over the course of their life and the extent of such changes is similar among family members.

According to Andrew Feinberg, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the university, epigenetics might very well play a role in diseases like diabetes, autism and cancer. Epigenetics stands at the center of modern medicine because epigenetic changes, unlike DNA sequence that is the same in every cell, can occur because of dietary and other environmental exposure.

The team analyzed the DNA sequences from 600 people taking part in the AGES Reykjavik Study, formerly called the Reykjavik Heart Study in Iceland. Those participants supplied DNA samples in 1991, and then again between 2002 and 2005. Then, scientists measured the variations in the levels of methylation that is the main epigenetic modification, in 111 samples. In about a third of cases, the methylation levels had changed over the years.

Vilmundur Gudnason, a professor of cardiovascular genetics at the University of Iceland, said inappropriate methylation levels could contribute to disease. Moreover, he added too much might turn necessary genes off, too little might turn genes on at the wrong time or in the wrong cell.

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1 comment:

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