Quick overview of what you’ll learn from this blog post:
- The main types of epigenetic modifications explained
- What factors can influence methylation
There are 2 main types of epigenetic modifications.
First, is histone modification.
Histones are little proteins that help your DNA get bundled away when it’s not in use. If your DNA was a thread, then the histones would be spools that the thread wraps around. However, these spools have the ability to change shape, changing how tightly the thread is wound around it. When they coil tighter, the DNA that’s wrapped around them becomes inaccessible. When a histone loosens up, the DNA becomes a bit more accessible. With many many histones, they help customize which parts of the DNA are capable of being read.
Next is DNA Methylation.
A ‘methyl’ is a small molecule that is created through natural cell processes and is present throughout your body. It can attach to certain spots on your DNA and act as a sort of genetic white-out. It changes gene expression by changing what areas on the DNA can be transcribed, one nucleosome at a time. When a methylated spot is encountered, the polymerase protein that reads DNA and turns it into RNA will just… skip over that spot. This means that methylation changes to DNA will translate to every other function in the body, since all other functions rely on instructions from the DNA to begin.
If methylation occurs on the wrong spots:
- The recipe for a protein may be translated incorrectly – resulting in protein misfolding.
- The proteins that help cells detect nutrient levels may not be created.
- The proteins that move energy from mitochondria to the rest of the body may be too slow, or too few in number.
- It may prompt cells to begin replicating out of control, because the genes that code for proteins to suppress tumors were accidentally turned off.
DNA Methylation influences all other forms of biological aging, so it’s only natural to examine methylation to learn more about aging – both measuring it, and predicting it.
Discovering how integral DNA methylation was to systems of biological aging has completely revolutionized our understanding of chronic disease development.
What changes methylation?
DNA Methylation is subtly influenced by nearly everything you do in life. It’s actually quite impressive, the number of factors researchers have found to influence gene expression through methylation.
‘Nature’ and ‘Nurture’ at the level of genetic expression are closely linked and deeply influence each other. Environmental exposures like heavy metals (lead, mercury, etc.) or lifestyle choices like heavy cigarette smoking are found to influence methylation patterns, which leads to altered gene expression and different phenotypes. Even elements of a person that most would find inherent to the self, like how aggression or empathy fits into their personality can be influenced by methylation that changed due to environmental exposure tweaking genes that create oxytocin, serotonin, or testosterone.
Known factors that can influence methylation patterns:
- Sleep habits
- Diet and nutrition
- Various medications
- Stress – both acute and chronic
- Exercise habits & activity
- Drinking alcohol
- Heavy metals
- Airborne pollution
- And much more…
Methylation is a crucial tool your body uses to adapt to the world around you, by changing gene expression throughout your life.
Because those changes to gene expression can change any part of your body, it can also affect any of the hallmarks of aging. So, your methylation also changes how you age. By examining methylation, we can get an up-close look at how your body is self-regulating – and how well it’s aging.
This blog was written in partnership with TruDiagnostic. TruDiagnostic is a Health Data company, specializing in epigenetic testing & research. They use a multi-omic approach to help scientists, physicians, and patients understand and benefit from the information found in the fluid epigenome.
The primary focus for TruDiagnostic is DNA Methylation – they offer a variety of algorithms and lab services for researchers, physicians, and consumers who want the most accurate and insightful longevity analysis from a CLIA-certified and HIPAA-compliant lab.
TruDiagnostic began with TruAge – a test that measures Biological Age by looking at Methylation. They now provide a full suite of aging related metrics. This includes telomere length measurements, intrinsic and extrinsic age calculations, immune cell subset deconvolution, current pace of aging, and more. It is available through AgelessRx here.
TruAge is trusted by clinical trials and academic research institutions across the world.
Note: The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.