Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Epigenetic' concepts offer new approach to degenerative disease

28.04.2010
In studies on cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders and other degenerative conditions, some scientists are moving away from the "nature versus nurture" debate, and are finding you're not a creature of either genetics or environment, but both - with enormous implications for a new approach to health.

The new field of "epigenetics" is rapidly revealing how people, plants and animals do start with a certain genetic code at conception. But, the choice of which genes are "expressed," or activated, is strongly affected by environmental influences. The expression of genes can change quite rapidly over time, they can be influenced by external factors, those changes can be passed along to offspring, and they can literally hold the key to life and death.

According to Rod Dashwood, a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, epigenetics is a unifying theory in which many health problems, ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders, can all be caused at least in part by altered "histone modifications," and their effects on the reading of DNA in cells.

"We believe that many diseases which have aberrant gene expression at their root can be linked to how DNA is packaged, and the actions of enzymes such as histone deacetylases, or HDACs," Dashwood said. "As recently as 10 years ago we knew almost nothing about HDAC dysregulation in cancer or other diseases, but it's now one of the most promising areas of health-related research."

In the case of cancer, tumor suppressor genes can cause cancer cells to die by acting as a brake on unrestrained cell growth. But too much of the HDAC enzyme can "switch off" tumor suppressor genes, even though the underlying DNA sequence of the cell – its genetic structure – has not been changed or mutated. If this happens, cells continue to replicate without restraint, which is a fundamental characteristic of cancer development.

The good news – for cancer and perhaps many other health problems – is that "HDAC inhibitors" can stop this degenerative process, and some of them have already been identified in common foods. Examples include sulforaphane in broccoli, indole-3-carbinol in cruciferous vegetables, and organosulfur compounds in vegetables like garlic and onions. Butyrate, a compound produced in the intestine when dietary fiber is fermented, is an HDAC inhibitor, and it provides one possible explanation for why higher intake of dietary fiber might help prevent cancer.

"Metabolism seems to be a key factor, too, generating the active HDAC inhibitor at the site of action," Dashwood said. "In cancer cells, tumor suppressors such as p21 and p53 often become epigenetically silenced. HDAC inhibitors can help turn them on again, and trick the cancer cell into committing suicide via apoptosis.

"We already know some of the things people can do to help prevent cancer with certain dietary or lifestyle approaches," Dashwood said. "Now we're hoping to more fully understand the molecular processes going on, including at the epigenetic level. This should open the door for new approaches to disease prevention or treatment through diet, as well as in complementing conventional drug therapies."

Dashwood, who is also head of LPI's Cancer Chemoprotection Program, will be presenting some of this research in a talk titled "Metabolism as a key to HDAC inhibition by dietary constituents," at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's annual meeting. The talk will take place in Anaheim Convention Center Ballroom E on Wednesday, April 28 at 1:30 pm PST.

OSU scientists recently received an $8.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to explore these issues, making the LPI program one of the leaders in the nation on diet, epigenetics, and cancer prevention. The positive findings of laboratory research are already being converted to placebo-controlled human intervention trials on such health concerns as colon and prostate cancer, which are among the most common cancers in the United States.

OSU scientists have published a number of studies on these topics in professional journals such as Cancer Research, Cancer Prevention Research, Carcinogenesis, and Seminars in Cancer Biology. Among the most recent findings is that naturally occurring organoselenium compounds in the diet might prevent the progress of human prostate and colon cancer through an HDAC inhibition mechanism.

"Some therapeutic drugs already used for cancer treatment in the clinical setting probably work, at least in part, because they are acting as HDAC inhibitors," Dashwood said. "And what's most intriguing is that HDAC inhibition may affect many degenerative health issues, not just cancer. Heart disease, stroke, bipolar disorder, and even aging may all have links to HDAC/histone alterations.

"In the future, a single HDAC inhibitor conceptually could have benefits for more than one degenerative disease problem."

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting is part of the Experimental Biology 2010 conference that will be held April 24-28, 2010 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The press is invited to attend or to make an appointment to interview Dr. Dashwood. Please contact Nicole Kresge at 202.316.5447 or nkresge@asbmb.org.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (www.asbmb.org) is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with over 12,000 members. Founded in 1906, the Society is based in Bethesda, Maryland, on the campus of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The Society's purpose is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through publication of scientific and educational journals: the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, and the Journal of Lipid Research, organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce.

Nicole Kresge | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asbmb.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement
26.06.2017 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

nachricht New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
26.06.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>