Epigenetics

This connects the genomic and the environmental factors that affect your health

What is Epigenetics?

Knowledge of the human genome enables the detection of the modifications in the sequences of certain genes which are responsible for many diseases, providing a diagnosis, and sometimes even a prognosis, of said pathologies, and the possibility of developing a much more precise treatment which is also less costly. However, physical and mental health do not depend only on the modifications in our DNA code, which may be our own or inherited from our ancestors (genetics), but also on the dynamic interaction between our genes and the environment, even though the genetic code may not be altered (epigenetics). It is of paramount importance that epigenetic changes are reversible and depend on the quality of the interaction between the individual and his/her environment.

Epigenetics may be defined as the study of the inheritable and reversible changes in genetic function which do not modify the DNA sequence.

A good example of the influence of epigenetics may be observed in studies performed on monozygotic identical twins. In spite of the fact that both share an identical DNA sequence, each develops a very different disposition to contracting certain types of diseases. This is explained, to a great extent, by the fact that each has been exposed to highly different stimuli (diet, social life, hobbies, bad habits, stress, etc.), and their genomes, although identical, are expressed differently.

How important is epigenetics in medicine?

Currently, epigenetic machinery is of great scientific interest, as it is among the major regulatory elements that control metabolic pathways at a molecular level.
Thus, for example, mechanisms such as memory and learning, age-associated cognitive deterioration or behavioral disorders are epigenetically regulated to a considerable extent. When this epigenetic control mechanism is disturbed, by either endogenic or exogenic factors, this generates an abnormal, pathogenic gene expression, although the genetic code remains intact.

Thus, epigenetics enables a more in-depth study of complex multifactorial diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis), cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Epigenetic regulation is also related to the mechanism of action, transport or the metabolic response to conventional drugs.