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7 Reasons To Get Epigenetic Testing

7 Reasons To Get Epigenetic Testing

Epigenetics is taking on the problems of disease and aging and seeking to turn back the aging clock. The heart of it is understanding and then controlling, gene expression by learning what can block or facilitate that expression.

It's still early stages in many respects, but you can be a part of it through epigenetic testing.

In this article:

  1. What Is Epigenetic Testing?
  2. Gene Expressions
  3. Epigenetics vs Genetic Testing
  4. 7 Reasons to Get Epigenetic Testing
    1. It Turns Fear Into Action
    2. It Can Show How You're Progressing
    3. It Can Empower
    4. It Advances Our Understanding
    5. It Really Works
    6. Precision Medicine
    7. It May Shed Light On Psychiatric Conditions

Why You Should Give Epigenetic Diagnostic Tests a Try

 

What Is Epigenetic Testing?

You're probably already familiar with genetic testing. These tests look at your genes and can tell you your risk of certain diseases and disorders based on whether a particular gene is present in your body.

Simple genetic testing has serious limitations; however, because a disease is not just a matter of having or not having a gene. Having a gene means nothing unless that gene expresses itself and unless that expression is healthy and normal.

 

Gene Expressions

There are all kinds of lifestyle, environmental, and drug-related factors that can signal your genes to express or stop them from doing so properly. Take alcohol as an example.

Alcohol has a strong dysregulation effect on dopamine production, which affects the brain's reward center. It does this for everyone, yet not everyone who drinks alcohol regularly will go on to become an alcoholic.

Studies are currently being done to see how epigenetics—in this case, environmental factors—may be changing the way certain proteins are formed through gene expression in some people, putting them at much greater risk of addiction. Specifically, we're discovering that when a pregnant mother consumes certain substances, including perfectly legal prescription drugs, this could cause epigenetic alterations in her growing baby that change the way that a person's genes will respond to alcohol for life.

 

Epigenetics vs Genetic Testing

Genetic testing can only consider risk in a vacuum. It cannot assess how lifestyle choices or environmental factors may affect you.

Epigenetic testing goes farther, combining your DNA risk with an assessment of lifestyle and environment.

 

7 Reasons to Get Epigenetic Testing

Scientists doing genetic testing | Reasons to Get Epigenetic Testing | genetic makeup

 

1. It Turns Fear Into Action

When you get a genetic test telling you you're at risk for a certain type of disease, the natural reaction is panic and fear. For some people, hearing that they tested “positive” for the presence of a certain gene can sound like a death sentence.

The problem is, it's not.

That gene will only cause a problem if it expresses, and epigenetics goes beyond the gene itself to help you find practical ways to prevent that expression and, if it does, catch it long before it can do any serious damage.

Instead of living in fear, you can find the motivation to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and stick to them or remove yourself from environmental influences that could increase your risk.

 

2. It Can Show How You're Progressing

With genetic testing, it's a one-and-done kind of deal.

Epigenetics allows you to go further. Once your positive changes have been in place for a while, you can measure their impact on your aging and disease risk.

As you see, the gap between your chronological age and your true biological age widen, you'll be inspired to continue new good habits.

Epigenetics looks at specific markers, such as DNA methylation, to understand whether certain genetic expressions are happening and at what rate. This gives you real feedback on how a lifestyle change is affecting the way an unwanted gene behaves.

 

3. It Can Empower

Doctor and patient discussing medical exam results | Reasons to Get Epigenetic Testing | genetic testing

You are not doomed to a destiny controlled entirely by a genetic makeup you had no say in. There are things you can do to influence your genes and whether they express or do so in a healthy way.

Once you take charge of your health and future in this way, you'll see the effects spill over into every other area of life through increased confidence.

 

4. It Advances Our Understanding

The more of us who take part in epigenetic testing, the more data researchers and scientists are able to use. With more data on human chromosomes and DNA and how they're affected by various life habits or environmental factors, they can continually refine their understanding and offer even better help to those looking to stop the advance of age and disease.

Not all of us can be scientists, but all of us can have a part in advancing this area of scientific knowledge.

 

5. It Really Works

The whole science of epigenetics is relatively new, causing some people to dismiss it in favor of “tried and true” methods. But the truth is that epigenetics already outperforms many of these older methods, and the more we learn, the better our epigenetic understanding and interventions become.

An Example

For years, the gold standard for detecting cervical cancer in women has been the PAP smear or PAP test.

PAP Smear Definition: This test removes a few cells from the cervix and looks for abnormalities or precancerous cells.

We also test for cervical cancer using the HPV virus test, since HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. However, just because a woman has HPV doesn't mean she'll get cancer.

In fact, many women clear the HPV infection and never get cancer, so a positive test for HPV doesn't do much more than alert you to greater risk and cause tremendous worry in the process.

Recently, epigenetics was pitted against the PAP smear and HPV tests in a group of 15,744 women. The test chosen was an S5 methylation assessment, which analyzed the women's DNA for chemical markers that indicated the genes causing cervical cancer had been turned “on.”

Astoundingly, this test was able to correctly identify 100% of the invasive cervical cancers that developed in these women. The HPV test, meanwhile, only detected 50%, while the PAP smears returned a miserable 25% correct detection rate.

 

6. Precision Medicine

An epigenetic test can lead to tailored medical treatment.

Precision Medicine Definition: Medical care designed to optimize efficiency or therapeutic benefit for particular groups of patients, especially by using genetic or molecular profiling.

For a given phenotype, there are genetic mutations, a different number of repeats in the genome, and environments and diet differ between individuals. 

In other words, we need personalized approaches to diagnose, understand, and treat diseases because illnesses affect everyone differently. 

In line with this, epigenetic biomarkers can help: 

  • Early diagnosis
  • Monitoring disease progression
  • Predicting disease outcomes
  • Selecting and grouping patients according to risk factors
  • Assessing the impact of therapeutic interventions in patient subsets
  • Predicting future diseases
 

7. It May Shed Light On Psychiatric Conditions

Psychiatry is one of the toughest areas of medicine when it comes to diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. First, there are no tissue samples, like tumors, you can take from a live patient. Environmental factors play a significant role, and no two patients exhibit a disease in the same way. 

Researchers working in psychiatry hope epigenetic markers can shed light on these illnesses and, ultimately, suggest drug targets.

In a 2015 study, researchers found epigenetic signatures in mice similar to those in the postmortem brains of schizophrenic patients. They also discovered a promising suicide biomarker, but they need a panel of 20 or more biomarkers for clinical testing to become a reality.

While it may still be a few years before epigenetic tests for psychiatry are available, the technology exists. Currently, researchers are looking for novel ways to identify biomarkers, such as machine learning. In the near future, epigenetic tests may be a viable method for detecting psychiatric disorders.

Epigenetics is changing the way we understand ourselves, the diseases that afflict us, and the whole aging process. With the right testing, we don't have to stay in the dark about our genetics or feel panicked and helpless.

To learn more about epigenetics, watch Tru Diagnostics, and stay on top of all the latest news in the field. Or, you can order a TruAge Kit to know more about your biomarkers and biological age.

Infographic | 5 Reasons To Get Epigenetic Testing

Do you think epigenetic testing is the future of medicine? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Pregnancy May Switch Off Cancer Genes In Mother

    Pregnancy May Switch Off Cancer Genes In Mother

    Epigenetics is taking on the problems of disease and aging and seeking to turn back the aging clock. The heart of it is understanding and then controlling, gene expression by learning what can block or facilitate that expression.

    It's still early stages in many respects, but you can be a part of it through epigenetic testing.

    In this article:

    1. How Does Pregnancy Impact Breast Cells?
    2. What Is the Impact of Pregnancy on DNA?
    3. What’s Next?

    Why You Should Give Epigenetic Diagnostic Tests a Try

    How Does Pregnancy Impact Breast Cells?

    In most mammals, pregnancy sets off a series of changes in breast cells in preparation for lactation. During gestation, a pregnant woman’s breast tissues begin to change. 

    This change includes the expansion of the epithelial cells and ductal structures. This allows the breast to accommodate milk droplets throughout gestation. 

    Once they stop lactating, the mammary glands go back to a nonsecretory state, but the breast tissue organization remains mostly the same and does not go back to its pre-pregnancy state. 

    But apart from breastfeeding, do these changes offer any other benefits? Research shows that women who get pregnant before they’re 25 years of age are less likely to develop breast cancer. 

    But how does pregnancy protect women from breast cancer? Dr. Camila O. dos Santos and her research team published a recent study that sheds some light on this.

     

    What Is the Impact of Pregnancy on DNA?

    Science Biotechnology DNA illustration and abstract illustration | What Is the Impact of Pregnancy on DNA? | Pregnancy May Switch Off Cancer Genes In Mother

    The structural changes in breast cells begin at the DNA level. Pregnancy triggers a change in nucleosomes. 

    What are nucleosomes? They are a section of DNA that is wrapped around proteins. These proteins protect DNA. 

    These changes can alter how certain regions of DNA open and close. When a part of the breast cell’s DNA opens, transcription factors can combine to either activate or deactivate specific genes.

    After conducting a multi-phased study on mice, Dr. dos Santos and her team found that pregnancy can trigger DNA changes that allow breast cells to block off the cMYC gene.

    What is cMYC? Overexpression of the cMYC gene can cause malignancy or cancer.

    Her team noted that pre-pregnancy breast cells were not resistant to this cancer-causing gene, so they were still susceptible to cancer. However, post-pregnancy breast cells resisted the adverse effects of cMYC. 

    The researchers believe that pregnancy can keep breast cells from interacting with cMYC. And they think that cellular senescence plays a role in all of this. 

    Cellular senescence is a state where cells are no longer dividing or multiplying, but they aren’t dying either. This arrested cell cycle state may protect against cancer. 

    After becoming pregnant, cMYC expression goes into pre-senescence where cells stop growing so cancer can’t progress. So the DNA signaling changes brought on by pregnancy may be able to shut down cancer genes before they cause malignancies in breast cells. 

     

    What’s Next?

    Dr. dos Santos is now working with her team to see if pregnancy has the same effect on human breast cells. They’re running a similar experiment, but this time, they’re using human tissue organoids. 

    At the same time, they’re also working on another study where they transplant pregnancy-altered breast cells in mice that have never been pregnant. They want to test the effects post-pregnancy breast cells have on non-pregnant environments. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. On top of that, over 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year. 

    The field of epigenetics is full of promise, even cancer prevention. Uncovering the whys and hows behind pregnancy’s protective effects against breast cancer can help scientists develop better preventive measures and treatment options for breast cancer. In the meantime, epigenetics already offers a variety of health applications. If you want to learn more about it, visit Tru Diagnostics.

    What are your thoughts on these new findings? Share them with us in the comments section below!

    Sources:

     

      The Role Of HDAC4 In Maintaining Epigenome Identity

      The Role Of HDAC4 In Maintaining Epigenome Identity

      A new study explores the role of HDAC4 in cellular senescence and aging. Read on to learn more.

      In this article:

      1. What is Senescence?
      2. How Does Senescence Impact Aging?
      3. What Are Histones?
      4. What Did the Researchers Do?
      5. What Is HDAC4?
      6. What Role Does HDAC4 Play in Cellular Senescence?
      7. How Do These Findings Contribute to Epigenetics?

      HDAC4 Sheds New Light on Cellular Senescence and Aging

       

      What is Senescence?

      Senescence is an irreversible cellular state. Epigenetic reprogramming triggers cells to go into a state where they are no longer dividing, but not dying either. 

      Researchers often characterize it as a state of arrest where the cell cycle stops, and cells can no longer grow. Senescence offers a few evolutionary benefits like suppressing the proliferation of damaged cells (including cancer cells), but there’s also a downside. 

       

      How Does Senescence Impact Aging?

      Cellular senescence and aging are not the same things, but they’re indeed intertwined. In fact, cellular senescence can be seen as a hallmark of aging. Over time, the accumulation of senescent cells can contribute to cellular dysfunction and aging

      Mitochondrial dysfunction, DNA damage, epigenetic dysregulation, and telomere damage can trigger senescence. Senescent cells can then cause inflammation and cell exhaustion, both of which contribute to the aging process. 

       

      What Are Histones?

      Illustration showing the formation of an animal cell from dna and chromosomes | Histones | The Role of HDAC4 in Maintaining Epigenome Identiy

      Histones play a role in a cell’s cycle progression, conversion of DNA to RNA, and other developmental events. Structurally, DNA, and histones are wrapped together. 

      Histone deacetylases (HDAC) are enzymes that regulate how tight or loose histones are wrapped around DNA. Functionally, it also plays a role in DNA expression regulation. 

      Since HDAC plays a role in regulating a cell’s cycle progression, a group of nine researchers wanted to understand its role in regulating senescence and the aging process. After conducting a series of experiments, they published their results in bioRxiv in June 2020. 

       

      What Did the Researchers Do?

      In their study, the researchers evaluated different class IIa HDAC expressions in different senescence and aging models. They examined the HDAC levels in skin and liver cells of 4-month old mice (young) and 25-month old mice (old). 

      They also examined the effects of knocking out the different HDAC in cells. From all of the HDACs, they found that HDAC4 plays a role in senescence regulation. 

       

      What Is HDAC4?

      Histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) is a protein from class IIa of HDAC. Rather than binding with DNA directly, HDAC4 interacts with DNA through transcription factors. 

       

      What Role Does HDAC4 Play in Cellular Senescence?

      After testing different HDACs, they found that HDAC4 is downregulated in all of the senescence and aging models. This prompted the researchers to explore further. 

      They didn’t only examine the presence and absence of HDAC4 but also examined the sequential effects of low HDAC4 levels. Here are some of their other findings:

      • HDAC4 levels decrease in older cells (compared to younger cells). 
      • HDAC4 levels trigger the appearance of specific senescence markers and cell-cycle arrest. Including harmful cells, like melanoma cells. 
      • After HDAC4 removal, DNA damage increases in the first 48 hours and then more rapidly in the next 24 hours. 
      • HDAC4 removal inhibits cell proliferation. In their sample, most of the cells without HDAC4 did not launch the second mitosis.
      • HDAC4 absence increases DNA lesion accumulation during replication. When replication occurs before the DNA lesions are repaired, it could lead to a DNA mutation. 
      • Low levels of HDAC4 activates retroviral origin (ERV) transcripts. ERV transcripts involve RNA, which can change the DNA genome by inserting copies of its genome. 

      Overall, an HDAC4 knock-out can lead to:

      • Accumulation of replication stress and DNA damage
      • Expression of inflammatory genes

      These events may trigger senescence prematurely. Because of these findings, the research team believes that HDAC4 may actually play a role in maintaining the genome integrity and epigenome identity of cells. 

      In the absence of HDAC4, senescence can begin in both pre-transformed and transformed cells. They believe that HDAC4 can safeguard a cell’s integrity by preventing the activation of senescent genes and regulating the expression of inflammatory genes.

       

      How Do These Findings Contribute to Epigenetics?

      Understanding HDAC4’s role in maintaining epigenome identity broadens medical professionals’ understanding of aging and cellular senescence, especially in the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics focuses on changes in gene expression. 

      It also factors in external variables like lifestyle and its impact on gene expression, aging, and disease. These new findings on HDAC4 may hold the key to understanding age-related changes in gene expression.

      If you want to learn more about epigenetics and the science of aging, contact Tru Diagnostic today

       

      What do you think of these new findings? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 
      Sources:

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