Wishing everyone who celebrates it a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year! I’ll be taking a break and spending time with family over the holidays and will be back in January with more healthy posts. May 2014 be your best year yet!
Breakthrough research emerged demonstrating that exposure to toxins could cause disease in future generations, not by changing a person’s DNA, but by affecting the methyl molecules that bind to the DNA in germ-line cells. This has spurned a new field called transgenerational epigenetics with important implications for both research and policy (Smithsonian). Chemicals aren’t the only things being handed down. Another study found that fear was transmitted from generation to generation in mice (National Geographic). On a more positive note, researchers also discovered that young people can stave off obesity with exercise, even if it’s in their genes to be fat (Science 2.0).
Another Reason To Skip the Antacids
Aside from interfering with the body’s main detoxification pathway, antacids have also been found to cause vitamin B12 deficiency, which was further explored in a recent study (Medical News Today). B12 is an essential nutrient for methylation and other important bodily functions.
The woes of personal genetic testing company 23andMe continued as a class action lawsuit was filed against them in California (Reason). On December 5, 23andMe announced that they would no longer be providing an analysis of health-related results to consumers who purchased their $99 spit-kit after November 22. Customers will still, however, have access to their raw data, which they can then have interpreted by another company. As RNA gains importance in the scientific community (The Economist) one has to wonder if simply knowing about your DNA is enough to make an accurate health assessment. I definitely believe in the importance of testing for SNPs, especially for those that we know a lot about, but I think that the next few years are going to be very interesting for the world of genetics in terms of making connections between DNA, RNA and disease. Further to that point, the discovery of duons this month brought about the knowledge that our “genetic code can simultaneously write two kinds of information” which “means that many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously” (University of Washington). Meanwhile, the richest man in Los Angeles is working on the ultimate personalized health care system using genome sequencing (Huffington Post).
Don’t Forget Dad
New findings that a man’s folate deficiency could contribute to birth defects in his offspring bring new implications for prenatal care (Los Angeles Times). By affecting the regulation of methylation, folate deficiency can also cause long-term negative effects such as pre-disposition to cancer, diabetes, autism and schizophrenia, along with obvious defects at birth. Folate-deficient males were also less fertile and their offspring were more likely to develop hydrocephalus and spine and limb deformities. As the aforementioned diseases are rising exponentially in the developing world, folate deficiency is a very important avenue of investigation into the cause of these conditions. And, as The Economist notes, unfortunately the damage caused by folate deficiency may happen early on – before men even have a chance to correct it with dietary changes. The full text of the study may be found here.
Several interesting autism findings emerged this month. First, something naturopathic and holistic doctors have long suspected or experienced in practice: healing the gut with probiotics helps alleviate symptoms of autism (Science Blog). More research was done on the SHANK3 gene, which is found to be at play in about two per cent of autism cases (Simons Foundation). Disabling GSK-3 in autism patients with fragile X syndrome could help reduce hyperactivity, seizures and “irregular neuronal signaling” (Simons Foundation). And finally, research has begun to determine whether the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin can reduce autism symptoms, particularly social insufficiencies (Simons Foundation).