Study: The epigenome of newborns and centenarians is different

June 11, 2012

What happens in our cells after one hundred years? What is the difference at the molecular level between a newborn and a centenary? Is it a gradual or a sudden change? Is it possible to reverse the aging process? What are the molecular keys to longevity? These central questions in biology, physiology and human medicine have been the focus of study by researchers for decades.

Today, the international journal (PNAS) publishes an international collaborative research led by Manel Esteller, director of the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), professor of Genetics at the University of Barcelona and ICREA researcher, which provides a vital clue in this field: the epigenome of newborns and is different.

While the genome of every cell in the human body, regardless of their appearance and function, is identical, that regulate it, known as epigenetic marks, are specific to each human tissue and every organ. This means that all our components have the same alphabet (genome), but the spelling (epigenome) is different in every part of our anatomy. The surprising result of the work led by Dr. Esteller is that the epigenome varies depending on the age of the person, even for the same tissue or organ.

In the study published in PNAS, from of a newborn, a man of middle age and a person of 103 years have been fully sequenced. The results show that the centenary presents a distorted epigenome that has lost many switches (methyl chemical group), put in charge of inappropriate and, instead, turn off the switch of some protective genes.

"Extending the results to a large group of neonates, individuals at the midpoint and nonagenarians or centenarians we realized that this is an ongoing process in which each passing day goes by twisting the epigenome" explains the researcher. However, Dr. Esteller noted that "epigenetic lesions, unlike genetic ones, are reversible and therefore modifying the patterns of DNA methylation by dietary changes or use of drugs may induce an increase in lifetime."

Explore further: Researchers complete the first epigenome in Europe

More information: Heyn H, Li N, Ferreira HJ, Moran S, Pisano DG, Gomez A, Diez J, Sanchez-Mut JV, Setien F, Carmona FJ, AA Pucaf Sayols S, Pujana MA, Serra-Musach J, Iglesias-Plata I, Formiga F, Fernandez AF, Fraga MF, Heath S, Valencia A, Gut IG, Wang J, Esteller M. The Distinct DNA Methylomes of Newborns and centenarians. Proc Natl Acad Sci, 2012.

Related Stories

Researchers complete the first epigenome in Europe

May 30, 2012
A study led by Manel Esteller, director of the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), professor of genetics at the University of Barcelona and ICREA researcher, has ...

Researchers characterize epigenetic fingerprint of 1,628 people

June 2, 2011
Until a decade, it was believed that differences between people were due solely to the existence of genetic changes, which are alterations in the sequence of our genes. The discoveries made during these last ten years show ...

Why cancer cells change their appearance?

September 2, 2011
Like snakes, tumour cells shed their skin. Cancer is not a static disease but during its development the disease accumulates changes to evade natural defences adapting to new environmental circumstances, protecting against ...

Recommended for you

Maternal diet may program child for disease risk, but better nutrition later can change that

October 20, 2017
Research has shown that a mother's diet during pregnancy, particularly one that is high-fat, may program her baby for future risk of certain diseases such as diabetes. A new study from nutrition researchers at the University ...

New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

October 20, 2017
A new study by scientists at UMass Medical School shows that using a technique called "nuclease-free" gene editing to correct cells with the mutation that causes a rare liver disease leads to repopulation of the diseased ...

Researchers drill down into gene behind frontotemporal lobar degeneration

October 19, 2017
Seven years ago, Penn Medicine researchers showed that mutations in the TMEM106B gene significantly increased a person's risk of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), the second most common cause of dementia in those ...

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

An architect gene is involved in the assimilation of breast milk

October 17, 2017
A family of "architect" genes called Hox coordinates the formation of organs and limbs during embryonic life. Geneticists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.