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Chronomentary: Latest Epigenetics Articles and News - October 2018

Our past is written, our future is not, and we can do something about it starting today. There is so much going on in the space of Epigenetics and preventive health care right now. No time to waste, keep updated, Chronomics is the best to start with.

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

Epigenetic 'Memories' That Could Pass On A Father's Life Experiences Seen In Worm Sperm
Studies of both humans and animals have suggested that a father's experiences can be transmitted across generations, but the mechanism for this epigenetic inheritance hasn't quite been clear.

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Research shows epigenetic information can be transferred via the histone proteins in sperm that package DNA. It was previously thought that sperm do not retain this histone packaging, instead relying solely on another protein called protamine to tightly package. It turns out that histone packaging is retained in developmentally important regions of DNA, so those findings raised awareness of the possibility that sperm may transmit important epigenetic information to embryos. The study shows that epigenetic information in sperm does play a role in normal development, but there's still a gap in understanding how the life experiences that information encodes can affect descendants.

Inherited Trauma Shapes Your Health

A new study on Civil War prisoners adds to the evidence suggesting that our parents’—and even grandparents’—experiences might affect our DNA.

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Research shows that the sons of Union Army soldiers who endured grueling conditions as prisoners of war were more likely to die young than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners. This is despite the fact that the sons were born after the war, so they couldn’t have experienced its horrors personally. In other words, it seemed like the stresses of war were getting passed down between generations.

Red Wine Components May Epigenetically Help Prevent Breast Cancer Growth

Study finds certain chemicals highly concentrated in red wine inhibit breast cancer cells from proliferating, and also influence a person’s epigenetics. In particular, certain phytochemicals commonly found in red wine such as grape seed proanthocyanidins (GSPs) and resveratrol (Res), which have been found to extend lifespans of certain cells by 70%, have been shown to exhibit anticancer properties. Yet, how these two chemicals affect cellular activity is not fully understood.

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While this study did focus on two particular components found in red wine, it does not suggest that women should start drinking more red wine to prevent or treat breast cancer. The study does, however, highlight the potential of natural substances for the treatment of breast cancer.

Want to know when you’re going to die?

It’s the ultimate unanswerable question we all face: When will I die? If we knew, would we live differently? Our life span is written on our DNA, and we’re learning to read the code.

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The measure being developed will never get good enough to forecast an exact date or time of death, but insurance companies are already finding them useful, as are hospitals and palliative care teams. The work still needs to be made more practical, and companies have to figure out the best uses for the data. Ethicists, meanwhile worry about how people will cope with knowing the final secret of life. But like it or not, the death predictor is coming.

Chronomics founders have discovered a way for you to know your biological age and now you can actually find out how your environment and lifestyle affect your health at a DNA level.

Researcher Studies Cancer in Africa to Understand it at Home

Tomi Akinyemiju, associate professor and assistant dean for inclusive excellence in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, is researching the causes of increasing rates of breast cancer among African women in Nigeria, and trying to identify why African and African American women in the United States tend to develop aggressive subtypes of the disease.

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Akinyemiju believes the changing obesity trends in African-American women can lead to increases in metabolic conditions such as diabetes and dyslipidemia and cause epigenetic changes in genes important for breast cancer. By understanding the metabolic and epigenetic risk factors for breast cancer in Nigeria, researchers like Akinyemiju can better understand why African-American women in the United States are more likely to develop this disease and can begin to develop ways to prevent the disease and develop more effective treatment.

Researchers Crack Genetic Engineering in 3-Dimensional Space

A new breakthrough in gene editing modifies the CRISPR technique to allow the movement of genes to specific locations in the cell nucleus. A new variant of the CRISPR technique called CRISPR-GO (the “GO” stands for “Genome Organization”) was developed that begins to address some of its progenitor’s issues and may hold the key to unlocking a level of the genetic code which has eluded scientists for years.

CRISPR-GO uses a modified CRISPR protein to reorganize the genome in three dimensions. If CRISPR is like molecular scissors, then CRISPR-GO is like molecular tweezers, grabbing specific bits of the genome and plunking them down in new locations of the nucleus. This sort of technique could be used to optimize rather than repair a person’s genes. CRISPR editing of epigenetic proteins is also being done as shown in a separate research article.

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What makes this approach really special though, is that the change in genetic location is both chemically inducible, and fully reversible. So if a patient were to have adverse reactions to the treatment, it could be quickly undone with little to no side effects. While the evidence shown by CRISPR-GO is exciting, the research is still in a pilot stage, and there’s more work to be done before these findings can be fully confirmed.

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