The study of the control of the functioning of genetic material is called epigenetics.
These changes in gene expression are caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. They often involve methylation or demethylation of specific proteins, such as “histones,” which are responsible influencing the expression of genes. The gene may produce more or less protein than normal which, in turn, can affect physical and behavioral traits.
These changes can be passed along with the transfer of the actual genetic material to generations of cells as they multiply, and even be passed on to subsequent generations of people (our children and grandchildren).
Epigenetics is how the same set of DNA can cause some cells to become liver tissue and others to become heart muscle and still others to become brain. The DNA is the same in each organ, but which genes get activated is vastly different in each.
Literally, “EPIGENETICS” describes traits that exist “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional molecular basis for inheritance.
What this has to do with many illnesses, including those affecting brain function, is that it opens the door to understanding, which in turn leads to a broader range of targets for treatment.
Within epigenetic treatment—the possibility of reversing pathological changes—lies the hope, someday, for cures of some disorders which are now incurable.
We now know a multitude of factors affect epigenomic functioning—starting before the baby is even born, continuing with hormonal “switches” during childbirth, chemical insults while maturing, stresses encountered, nutritional factors, and more.
This is exciting news for people with complex illnesses in which a multitude of genes are involved, but no one specific gene can be to blame. Some genetic variants can place us at hugely increased risk for an illness, but some outside factor – an epigenetic factor – triggers the aberrant function.
Thus identical twins can both be at greater genetic risk for an illness yet only one may develop it. Perhaps the one that does had less nutrition than the other en-utero, less oxygen during birth, was more picky about food, more sensitive to the environment, the mitochondria distribution was different from the other. Whatever it was, the result is their genetic expressions ultimately differed and one may succumb at an early age while the other is unaffected.
Epigenetics may become the master key in the understanding of many major illnesses involving psychosis and mood dysregulation. It is considered to be a "third wave" in psychiatric research with the potential to bridge and unify the first two areas of study—the traditional genetic and environmental studies.
Epigenomic research is leading to better understanding of the regulatory changes in genes and genomes occurring in major complex illnesses such as some involving psychosis. It is unveiling the mysteries behind why the same gene sequence may predispose one individual to schizophrenia yet another to bipolar disorder, yet leave another unaffected. It may shed light on the molecular mechanisms of how hazardous environmental factors interact with the genome.
Results from this area of research may lead to new diagnostics and more effective therapies.
“Developmental Epigenetics” studies epigenetic modifications in children—the epigenetic mechanisms determining which genes in the symphony of life get played and which remain silent at any particular moment—and how these mechanisms interact with the environment to affect their health.
The goal of developmental epigenetics is to help prevent, monitor and treat childhood and adolescent diseases ranging from premature birth to autism, from Tourette syndrome to persistent depression, and from cancer to schizophrenia.
Here is some interesting research and reading pertaining to epigenetics and Illness:
- Scientists Suggest Framework For Epigenetics in Common Disease Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Epigenetics: Methylation and schizophrenia Monica Hoyos Flight
- Epigenetics: A new science peels away another layer of the genetic onion John McManamy
- The epigenetics of cancer in children by Frühwald MC, Witt O.
- Epigenetics of autism spectrum disorders by N. Carolyn Schanen
- New Theory Of Autism Suggests Symptoms Or Disorder May Be Reversible ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2009)
- Epigenetics: the way we pass on our traits to our children is much more complicated than we originally thought
- Epigenetics Catalyst
- Tourette Syndrome, Tics, OCD & Depression: The Underlying Biochemistry of Tourette syndrome, Tics and Depression Great Plains Laboratory
- Epigenetic risks related to assisted reproductive technologies
- Solving the Puzzle of “Schizophrenia”
- Specific Genes Inherited from Both Parents May Lead to Type of "Schizophrenia"
- Sets of Symptoms--Not the Cause–Get Diagnostic Labels
- Viral Infections and Schizophrenia
- Why does a child get a “mental” diagnosis when it isn’t “mental”?
- Autism Is Not a “Mental Illness”
- Genetic Links to “Developmental”, “Mental”, “Auto-Immune” and other Medical Disorders
- Specific Genes Inherited from Both Parents May Lead to Type of "Schizophrenia" (How schizophrenia can skip a generation)
- What are some genetic causes of psychosis?
- What is Epigenetics
- Brain Health: Nutrition and Epigenetics
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Psychiatric Symptoms
Property of http://www.itsnotmental.com/
Last Updated: 16 November 2011