The science of epigenetics is growing and expanding rapidly, and it’s becoming increasingly important for everyone to understand the basics of epigenetics and its implications for health. Epigenetics is an umbrella term for the ways in which environmental stimuli affect the gene activity of an organism. When the body reacts to these environmental stimuli, it does so through a series of epigenetic control mechanisms, which orchestrate the body’s response.
The field of epigenetics has emerged as an important topic for cancer researchers. During the past decade, research has focused on the study of the way genes are accessed, modified, and expressed. A number of pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that target the epigenetic state of cells.
In general, epigenetics is the study of how DNA is modified in response to environmental factors. Epigenetic changes influence the function of a gene and thus influence a cell’s ability to make proteins.
The effects of epigenetic changes on a person’s health are varied, depending on the type of mutations. Some of these mutations increase the risk of developing cancer. Others, however, are benign.
Epigenetic changes also affect the ability of a cell to undergo normal cell divisions. The process of cell division is dependent on the instructions given to the DNA by its genes. When the body is in a state where the instructions are faulty, the cells may begin to malfunction and the genes will not work properly.
Epigenetic control orchestrates the body’s response to environmental stimuli
Epigenetic control is a mechanism for orchestrating the body’s response to external environmental stimuli. It involves a series of epigenetic modifications that regulate the genes involved in metabolic pathways.
An example of an epigenetic change is DNA methylation. DNA methylation refers to the attachment of small chemical groups to the DNA. These methyl groups turn a gene on or off.
Another example is histone modification. Histones are proteins that give the chromosomes their shape. They also act as a wraparound of the DNA.
Other examples include DNA methylation and mRNA editing. Methylation patterns have been shown to have a cyclical rhythm.
Other mechanisms involve noncoding RNAs and chemical modifiers. In addition, epigenetics may involve transgenerational inheritance.
Some studies have suggested that diet, behavioral changes and environmental factors influence the epigenetic status of animals and humans. For instance, folic acid supplements are known to alter DNA methylation status. The presence of these compounds has been linked to the reduction of neural tube defects.
Natural substances as epigenetic therapies for certain cancer subtypes
Epigenetic therapies are emerging as an alternative form of cancer therapy. These drugs work by promoting cellular plasticity and reprogramming of cancer cells through epigenetic regulation. They are often used in combination with chemotherapy to improve the anti-tumour activity of standard treatment. However, it is not yet clear how to use epigenetic therapies in clinical practice.
Many studies have identified the role of epigenetics in the development of cancer. This includes changes in DNA methylation and the expression of certain genes. Hypermethylation of promoters in CGIs is one of the most well-known examples of epigenetic alteration. It has been linked to the progression of many cancer types.
Other epigenetic modifications include histone modification, non-coding RNA regulations, and RNA methylation. These modifications are reversible and heritable. Consequently, they are important targets for cancer therapy.
The Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is an oncogenic histone methyltransferase that interacts directly with DNA methyltransferases. This enzyme is aberrantly activated in many different types of cancer.
Challenges and limitations of social epigenomics studies
Epigenetics research raises many ethical and social issues. Some of the most important questions include health promotion and health equity. In addition, social inequities have been raised in terms of “biologization of social space and time.”
Environmental exposures can have transgenerational effects. Exposures can affect cardiovascular, respiratory and neurodevelopmental diseases. Prenatal infections can transmit behavioral abnormalities from one generation to the next. This transmission pattern has been shown for prenatal immune challenges. However, underlying mechanisms remain uncertain.
Consequently, epigenetics is also faced with social, ethical and legal issues. These include:
– Communication: Informed consent should be tailored to the patient’s age and education level. It should clearly describe the risks and benefits of screening and alternative prediction methods. – Risk assessment: A critical evaluation of the risks of a particular epigenetic test is necessary before implementing it into a population.
– Ethics: Ethical obligations for genetic counselling may apply to epigenetic communication. Healthcare professionals’ responsibilities should also be considered.