If you’ve never heard of epigenetics, you’re not alone. The term has been thrown around in the media recently, but many people are still unsure of what it means or how it can affect their lives.
This guide will help you better understand what epigenetics is, how it works, and why understanding it can improve your health.
Epigenetics may even help you live longer and healthier lives by reducing your chances of developing certain diseases like cancer and diabetes. Read on to learn more about this exciting new field of research and how it could affect your life today!
What Is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics, which literally means in addition to genetics, looks at how environmental factors can affect your genes. Epigenetic changes include chemical tags that attach to your DNA or change how tightly your DNA coils up.
These chemical modifications can affect whether a gene is turned on or off without actually changing its underlying DNA sequence. That has big implications for our health.
The Benefits of Epigenetic Therapies
The ever-growing list of epigenetic therapies shows how these treatments are already improving our health in several ways.
Epigenetic therapies allow us to tailor medical interventions toward individuals based on genetic profiles, rather than treat everyone with a given disease or disorder in exactly the same way. For example, there are currently three drugs approved for use in cancer treatment that target epigenetic mechanisms.
These epigenetic drugs (which include inhibitors of enzymes that methylate DNA) work by restoring normal gene function when specific genes have been silenced due to methylation patterns. The more we learn about epigenetics,the more we’ll be able to develop treatments tailored toward both preventing disease onset and also repairing damage done by disease progression.
How does epigenetics help cancer treatment
Epigenetic changes can make healthy cells cancerous, and vice versa. Epigenetic therapy leverages genetic information to target cancer directly, with fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy or radiation.
When applied to a person’s epigenome, these drugs cause DNA methylation to occur at certain genes in cancer cells only. As a result, there are no unwanted side effects as often seen with chemotherapy or radiation, which kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones.
How does epigenetics help diabetes treatment
Diabetes mellitus type 2 occurs when there are high levels of glucose in your bloodstream and you’re unable to produce enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin.
This means that more sugar stays in your blood, which can damage body organs like eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. A new study from Indiana University suggests that epigenetic alterations could be a key factor in diabetes treatment.
The study looked at mice that were fed a diet with sucrose (sugar). Their control group of mice were fed a standard chow diet for one month prior to being exposed to sucrose for another four months. While both groups developed diabetes-like symptoms after eating sugary foods, only their test group showed evidence of altered DNA methylation patterns within pancreatic beta cells.
How does epigenetics help anxiety, depression, and PTSD treatment
The science of epigenetics tells us that experiences, environments, and lifestyles all have a deep impact on our genetic makeup. Because of epigenetic changes, we can pass physical traits (like eye color) from parent to child. For example, let’s say your grandmother smoked when she was pregnant with your mother.
If a child was in utero during those years, he or she would have absorbed those toxins into his DNA for life—but would never develop cancer or suffer any other long-term ailments because those genes weren’t turned on. While these sorts of experiences are largely outside our control, new epigenetic research suggests that things like trauma may be able to change our genetics.
Is epigenetic therapy safe?
Epigenetic therapy has recently been approved for some cancers and several autoimmune diseases, with many more trials ongoing. There are also several FDA-approved drugs that target epigenetic factors in cancers. For example, Praluent was approved in 2015 to treat high cholesterol by targeting a specific epigenetic protein that regulates cholesterol production; if your body can’t make enough of that protein, its levels drop and cholesterol production slows down.
It’s an interesting new way to treat disease, but is it safe? As with any new treatment, there’s always risk—we don’t yet know whether these drugs have serious side effects or interact with other medications (they’re new because they’re so complicated). And treatments like CRISPR-Cas9 aren’t ready for use in humans just yet.