Home pageArticles - biotech and pharmacyMNT: Stress May Cause Illness By Changing Genes

MNT: Stress May Cause Illness By Changing Genes

Date: 6.9.2012 

Medical News Today 21 Aug 2012: A new study suggests that acute psychological stress, which is known to increase the risk of physical and mental illness, may do so by altering the control of genes.

A report on the study, thought to be the first to show that stress alters the methylation of DNA and thus the activity of certain genes, appeared online in the journal Translational Psychiatry on 14 August.

Researchers from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), together with colleagues from Basel, Trier and London, looked at gene segments that are known to be involved with the control of biological stress.

One of the most important discoveries in genetics is epigenetics, or the "second code" that regulates gene activity.

Research is beginning to show that epigenetic changes could be involved in the development of some chronic diseases such as cancer or depression.

While the genome, the genetic code or DNA, for making a human being is more or less fixed once the sperm fertilizes the egg, it is the epigenome that decides how the blueprint is interpreted.

Think of the genome as being the construction manual for making all the proteins the body needs, and the epigenome as the construction or maintenance guy reading the manual: sometimes he will have off days when he is tired and makes mistakes, or just interprets the instructions differently...

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