Over the course of life, the general aging process, environmental influences, and lifestyle factors can all include biochemical alterations to one’s DNA. Such factors are said to lead to DNA methylation, which is the process that has methyl l-groups added to particular segments of DNA. Such additions do not actual change the DNA sequence, but add to them.
Scientists of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology and Research Unit Molecular Epidemiology (AME) at Helmholtz Zentrum M-nchen are currently looking to determine the associations that exist in the process and the direct health consequences. One are of particular focus is the effects upon one’s metabolism.
Christian Gieger and Melanie Waldenberger, who currently lead the team, who are in collaboration with Karsten Suhre of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar analyzed blood samples from more than 1800 participants of the KORA study. They have analyzed over 450,000 loci within DNA to note biochemical alterations and contrast them to the concentrations of 649 different metabolites. Analysis was said to show methylation of 28 separate DNA segments changed a number of necessary and important metabolic processes.
Within regions of DNA that were considered relevant, there were also known disease-related genes. The TXNIP gene, which is in charge of regulating glucose metabolism and is associated with the development of diabetes. It also encompassed genes known to be altered due to tobacco smoke intake and those that corresponded specifically with biological functions.
“This study gives us new insights into how lifestyle factors can influence metabolism via the resulting alterations in the DNA,” said Gieger, research group leader at the IGE. “We can now use these results to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes.”
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