Epigenetic changes linked with ageing

Some of the genetic changes associated with ageing may be the result of epigenetics, which suggests they could be reversed. Molecules can attach to DNA, enhancing or preventing gene activation without changing the underlying genetic code. Such epigenetic changes are already suspected as factors in psychiatric disorders, diabetes and cancer. In addition, they many play a role in ageing. A new study, by Jordana Bell and colleagues of King’s College London, examined the DNA of 86 sets of twin sisters aged 32 to 80, and discovered that 490 genes linked with ageing showed signs of epigenetic change through a process called methylation. “These genes were more likely to be methylated in the older than the younger [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][sets of] twins,” says Bell, suggesting that the epigenetic changes themselves might contribute to ageing (PLoS Genetics, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002629). The next challenge is to establish when gene methylation occurs. It can be triggered through lifestyle factors such as smoking, and environmental stresses. It may one day be possible to develop enzymes that can remove the offending molecules from DNA and reverse methylation – and some aspects of ageing.

New Scientist, 27 April 2012 ;http://www.newscientist.com/ ;