Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCLA study finds genetic link between misery and death

25.02.2010
Researchers develop novel strategy to probe 'genetic haystack'
In ongoing work to identify how genes interact with social environments to impact human health, UCLA researchers have discovered what they describe as a biochemical link between misery and death. In addition, they found a specific genetic variation in some individuals that seems to disconnect that link, rendering them more biologically resilient in the face of adversity.

Perhaps most important to science in the long term, Steven Cole, a member of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and an associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology-oncology, and his colleagues have developed a unique strategy for finding and confirming gene–environment interactions to more efficiently probe what he calls the "genetic haystack."

The research appears in the current online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using an approach that blends computational, in vivo and epidemiological studies to focus their genetic search, Cole and his colleagues looked at specific groups of proteins known as transcription factors, which regulate gene activity and mediate environmental influences on gene expression by binding to specific DNA sequences. These sequences differ within the population and may affect a gene's sensitivity to environmental activation.

Specifically, Cole analyzed transcription factor binding sequences in a gene called IL6, a molecule that is known to cause inflammation in the body and that contributes to cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration and some types of cancer.

"The IL6 gene controls immune responses but can also serve as 'fertilizer' for cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancer," said Cole, who is also a member of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. "Our studies were able to trace a biochemical pathway through which adverse life circumstances — fight-or-flight stress responses — can activate the IL6 gene.

"We also identified the specific genetic sequence in this gene that serves as a target of that signaling pathway, and we discovered that a well-known variation in that sequence can block that path and disconnect IL6 responses from the effects of stress."

To confirm the biochemical link between misery and death, and the genetic variation that breaks it, the researchers turned to epidemiological studies to prove that carriers of that specific genetic variation were less susceptible to death due to inflammation-related mortality causes under adverse social-environmental conditions.

They found that people with the most common type of the IL6 gene showed an increased risk of death for approximately 11 years after they had been exposed to adverse life events that were strong enough to trigger depression. However, people with the rarer variant of the IL6 gene appeared to be immune to those effects and showed no increase in mortality risk in the aftermath of significant life adversity.

This novel method of discovery — using computer modeling and then confirming genetic relationships using test-tube biochemistry, experimental stress studies and human genetic epidemiology — could speed the discovery of such gene and environmental relationships, the researchers say.

"Right now, we have to hunt down genetic influences on health through blind searches of huge databases, and the results from that approach have not yielded as much as expected," Cole said. "This study suggests that we can use computer modeling to discover gene–environment interactions, then confirm them, in order to focus our search more efficiently and hopefully speed the discovery process.

"This opens a new era in which we can begin to understand the influence of adversity on physical health by modeling the basic biology that allows the world outside us to influence the molecular processes going on inside our cells."

Other authors on the study were Jesusa M. G. Arevalo, Rie Takahashi, Erica K. Sloan and Teresa E. Seeman, of UCLA; Susan K. Lutgendorf, of the University of Iowa; Anil K. Sood, of the University of Texas; and John F. Sheridan, of Ohio State University. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the UCLA Norman Cousins Center and the James L. Pendleton Charitable Trust. The authors report no conflict of interest.

The UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology encompasses an interdisciplinary network of scientists working to advance the understanding of psychoneuroimmunology by linking basic and clinical research programs and by translating findings into clinical practice. The center is affiliated with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

Mark Wheeler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

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

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>