With support from the Food Standards Agency and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council they are investigating whether diet could control these changes and delay or reverse the onset of cancer.
"We looked at changes in 18 genes that play a role in the very earliest stages of colorectal cancer," says Professor Ian Johnson at the Institute of Food Research.
"We detected clear chemical differences in these genes in otherwise normal tissue in cancer patients.
"This represents a new way to identify defects that could eventually lead to cancer."
All cells carry a complete set of instructions for the whole organism in their nuclear DNA, but to define the specialised structure and functions of each particular cell type, genes must be switched on or firmly off, over the course of the cell's life-cycle.
One of the mechanisms controlling the activities of the genes in a cell is the "epigenetic code", a set of chemical tags attached to the DNA molecule, marking individual genes for expression, or for silence. It is well known that the abnormal behaviour of cancer cells is partly due to mistakes in this epigenetic code, some of which switch on genes for growth, whilst others switch off genes that would otherwise cause abnormal cells to destroy themselves.
Scientists at IFR are exploring the possibility that such mistakes in the epigenetic code may begin to occur in apparently normal tissues, long before the appearance of a tumour.
In the current study published in the British Journal of Cancer they measured the numbers of methyl groups attached to DNA taken from the cells lining the large intestine of bowel cancer patients. They found subtle changes that may make the whole surface of the bowel more vulnerable to the eventual development of tumours by causing the 'addiction' of cells to abnormal gene expression.
Some of these changes seem to occur naturally with age, but, supported by the Food Standards Agency, IFR is investigating the possibility that factors in our lifestyle such as diet, obesity and exercise can accelerate or delay DNA methylation as we grow older, thus giving us some degree of control over this vital aspect of our long-term health.
Professor Nigel Brown, Director of Science and Technology at BBSRC said: "Basic research in the relatively young field of epigenetics is already contributing to our understanding of human health. Understanding how epigenetic processes work to maintain healthy cells and tissues is the key to long-term health because, as we see here, the breakdown of these normal processes may subsequently cause disease. BBSRC funds a range of research in the field of epigenetics and has been encouraging networking amongst members of the European epigenetics research community."
Zoe Dunford | EurekAlert!
Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Flexible sensors can detect movement in GI tract
11.10.2017 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences