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Epigenetics Weekly Update: Friday 12 October 2018

Every week at Chronomics we release news on epigenetics for those of our community using the Chronomics Lifestyle Programme. The resource is for those particularly interested in proactive health backed by science.

The global epigenetics market is estimated to grow rapidly at a CAGR of over 20% during the forecast period 2018 - 2023. Epigenetics is defined as the study of changes in gene expression, which are caused by certain base pairs in DNA, or RNA, being turned off or on again, through the chemical reactions.

Here are some highlights for the week on the latest on epigenetics for proactive wellness.

Epigenetic Marks on DNA May Indicate Breast Cancer Risks


Nearly one in eight women will battle breast cancer in her lifetime and for those women affected, it becomes the battle for their life. Early detection and medical advances stem the tide for this disease, but each study brings us a little closer to unlocking ways to combat it.

A recent study has uncovered that the answer might not rely completely on genetics, but that heritable epigenetics may contribute to discovering who is at risk. The study conducted looked at 210 people from 25 multiple-case breast cancer families. It revealed 24 previously unknown epigenetic changes that alter a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer without involving variants in the DNA sequence.

Policy needed to reduce chronic stressors to create a healthier future


Research has shown that prolonged exposure to stress can alter the brain’s structure. If trauma can have such a meteoric impact on our brains, could it not also affect our bodies in other ways? Epigenetics suggests trauma does change our genetic expression and these expressions can be inherited.

Epigenetics is the answer to the age old nature vs. nurture debate. The theory behind epigenetics is not that our DNA sequencing changes but rather our gene expression changes. For example, genetic information codes can be “turned on” or “turned off” due to various factors, including social and environmental stressors, and can change throughout our lifetime.

Scientists in China breed healthy mice from two females


Wei Li, one of the study’s co-authors said, “This research shows us what's possible. We saw that the defects in bimaternal mice can be eliminated and that bipaternal reproduction barriers in mammals can also be crossed through imprinting modification. We also revealed some of the most important imprinted regions that hinder the development of mice with same sex parents, which are also interesting for studying genomic imprinting and animal cloning."

Scientists say that despite the potential of the latest study, the technology just isn't ready for practical application.

Study shows DNA of people with childhood abuse or depression ages faster


DNA from people who suffer from major depression is biologically older than that of healthy people by on average 8 months, suggesting that they are biologically older than their corresponding calendar age. This effect was greater in people who have had childhood trauma who show a biological age around a year older than their actual age.

There is increasing evidence that serious depression and trauma is associated with shorter life-spans. Working with 811 depressed patients and 319 control subjects from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, the team studied how their DNA extracted from blood samples was changed with age. According to lead researcher, Laura Han (from the Amsterdam UMC), "What we see is in fact an 'epigenetic clock', where the patterns of modification of the body's DNA is an indicator of biological age. And this clock seems to run faster in those who are currently depressed or have been stressed".

Molecular link between body weight, early puberty identified


According to new research, becoming overweight at a young age can trigger a molecular chain reaction that leads some girls to experience puberty early. Girls have been experiencing puberty earlier in life for the last 150 years or so, with 12.5 years being the average age girls start puberty today. Early-onset puberty can lead girls to experience health problems later, including increased incidence of ovarian, uterine and breast cancers, as well as being at a higher risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Knowing how nutrition and specific molecules play a role in starting puberty early could one day help physicians prevent the condition in humans," said one of the study's corresponding authors, Alejandro Lomniczi, Ph.D. Lomniczi and colleagues are now exploring if the difference might be due to epigenetics, or changes caused by gene expression rather than changes in the genetic code itself. Gene expression is when genes make functional products such as proteins.

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