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Have you ever performed a song? Perhaps you know that knowing and reading the musical notes is the same as doing it with the right rhythm. In a score, all these musical notes are in sequence and several of them mark the register of the intensity or speed with which they should sound.

The human genome works in a similar way to a score, where the sequences of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid contain all the instructions to generate functional elements such as proteins and epigenetic mechanisms.

These are responsible for regulating how and to what degree they should be expressed in the human genome, therefore, you must know everything that has to do with epigenetics.

What is epigenetics and what is it for?

This is the control over genes, being the ability that cells have to adapt to the external environment. There are only two to three percent of current diseases that are genetic, such as Down syndrome, chromosomal abnormalities, and diseases that develop only in the baby at birth.

However, the remaining 98 percent of diseases depend on how the person has eaten, if they smoke, the toxins to which they have been exposed, if they have been exposed to the sun a lot, if they sleep, if they are stressed and how they manage to manage His emotions. Based on all these things, the person can modulate and make a cell express itself in a way , either towards inflammation or towards health.

So, exercise, stress , inflammation, diet or infections are going to have an impact on the cell and it is going to adapt and it is going to say which gene is going to be expressed.

What does epigenetics study?

This word is of Greek origin and literally means above the genome . This is a branch of genetics, which is responsible for studying the different factors that do not directly modify genes, but the way they have to be expressed.

In order to understand it better, deoxyribonucleic acid is a very long code and contains everything that the human being is, such as: the amount of hair that one has, the height, the color of the eyes and also, how a drug can affect in the body. This information is usually called Genotype and for all cells it is the same.

However, the expression of this information can be different depending on the cell, the state in which it can be found and other factors. This expression is usually called a phenotype, with the same genotype different characteristics can be seen thanks to the diversity of phenotypes. Even with the age of the person, the way the body reacts changes. However, this genetic information remains the same until the person dies.

Therefore, epigenetics studies the way that all expressions and the different factors that cause them occur, without directly modifying DNA.

Origin of epigenetics

This term can be attributed to Waddington, who defined it as the study of all events, as well as that of heritable changes in genetic function, which can occur without any change in deoxyribonucleic acid.

Thomas Jenuwin explains it this way: “The difference between genetics and epigenetics can be compared to writing and reading a good book. When this has been written (all the genes that are stored in the DNA) it will be the same in all the copies that are distributed. However, each person who reads it can interpret the story differently. Similarly, epigenetics can allow different interpretations of the same genetic code, and can result in different readings, depending on all the conditions in which the template is interpreted.

Experiments that determine the importance of epigenetics

This experiment was carried out in 2003 at a university. There a breed of mice was chosen, which are normally large and yellow and have a tendency to develop diabetes II, inflammation of the arteries, liver, cancer, arteriosclerosis and live for a short time. However, prior to conception about six months before, both the mother and the father were supplemented with folic acid, vitamin B12, betaine and choline, and the diet was exactly the same.

But what happened? With this, an imprint was generated in the genes prior to conception, which, favored that the offspring did not develop the genes that lead to obesity, diabetes, fat accumulation, swelling, inflammation and early death, all of these had been blocked.

And the genes that lead to the lengthening of telomeres, which are the molecules that make a person live longer, anti-inflammatory, insulin sensitivity, all began to express up to three generations of mice, just by giving them these 4 supplements.

This experiment was done to see what can be done throughout life if diet, exercise, vitamin supplements are respected, since all of this is important for epigenetics.

How can epigenetics influence?

Because, this is a science that is based on the way in which various environmental factors and lifestyles, such as exercise, diet, among others, can determine the expressions of some genes. This means, according to certain studies carried out, that we not only inherit the genes of our ancestors. But also, we inherit other changes in the genome which determine whether the gene remains active or not.

This may depend on various biochemical conditions such as deoxyribonucleic acid, chromatin or histone methylation. Simply put, this science focuses on all the reversible changes in DNA and all the proteins that manage to bind to it and that allow genes to be expressed or not depending on the conditions.

According to Doctor Fabio Celnikier, who is one of the representatives of the study of epigenetics, says it this way: “Until now, it was believed that grandparents and parents could simply pass on their genes and that all experiences in their lives did not they were acquired and were rendered useless. This was because it was trusted that genes could be passed unalterably from generation to generation .

However, today it is known that all the air they breathed, the water they drank and the psychosocial environment in which they were could also affect all their descendants even after several decades ”.

On the other hand he added: “All external factors can influence the complex of switches that may be needed to connect and disconnect. Thus lead to the development of cancer. So this is not about the genes that can be inherited from the parents or not, but whether they are turned off or on via epigenetic switches. “

Different types of epigenetic mechanisms

The main epigenetic mechanisms are reversible, this means that they can be modified:

DNA methylation

This is one of the most studied epigenetic mechanisms, and consists of the addition of a biochemical group called methyl to one of the nucleotides that make up DNA, called cytosine. These groups act as recognition signals for some enzymes that act on gene expression.

Chromatin modification

Within the cell nucleus, deoxyribonucleic acid is not isolated, but is organized with molecules and proteins, which form chromatin. Something fundamental to chromatin is the nucleosome , which is made up of DNA that is wrapped around 8 units of histone proteins.

These proteins can be biochemically modified in some specific positions, which in turn affects the degree of compaction of deoxyribonucleic acid in the nucleosome, while the DNA is more compacted in a nucleosome, the genes in that region will be less accessible. On the other hand, if the DNA is less compacted, there will be more space for the proteins that are related to gene expression to bind to the DNA.

RNA interference

Various RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) molecules can help silence gene expression , being able to bind DNA and interfere with the process in which all information is transferred from deoxyribonucleic acid to ribonucleic acid.

All epigenetic mechanisms interact with each other, as for example, the machinery of the cell responsible for remodeling all nucleosomes is influenced by the methylation of deoxyribonucleic acid and by the different modifications in histones.

Similarly, deoxyribonucleic acid methylation is a signal to recruit different protein complexes that may include histone modifying proteins. When these epigenetic mechanisms do not work in a correct way, many diseases can develop. One of these is Rett Syndrome, which is caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene.

Epigenetic foods that have benefits on methylation

  • Betaine: Which are: Mussels and beets.
  • Methionine : Nuts and fish.
  • Hill: Crispy or iceberg type lettuce.
  • Fatty acids: Omega 3, such as fish and shellfish.
  • Vitamin B: Cabbage, green vegetables, asparagus, eggs, chickens.
  • Sulforaphane: Broccoli.
  • Iodine : Mushrooms, algae, shellfish and crustaceans.

What Causes Epigenetic Developmental Changes?

  1. The exercise.
  2. The diet: Rich in fat, lack of vitamins and nutrients that are essential in the body.
  3. Consumption of Resveratrol, which is found in red grapes and red wine.
  4. The cigarette.
  5. The alcohol.
  6. Chemicals that can be found at work or home such as asbestos and bisphenol A, a substance found in most plastic bottles.
  7. Medicines.

How many people can be affected by epigenetic changes?

This occurs in all human beings as something normal in growth, development and aging. Some of these may be able to modify the risk of the person developing certain diseases or abnormalities.

Diseases in which epigenetic alterations are seen


This disease is caused by a cell that is no longer in the original tissue and begins to move to another tissue . Cancer was one of the first in which an alteration in epigenetic mechanisms was noted. For this reason, scientists have made an effort to characterize the epigenetic elements involved in the initiation, maintenance and progression of a tumor in the body.

All this has led to the development or manufacture of epigenetic drugs , which help to modify the epigenome of the cells that are affected.


When the epigenome of a baby, an adult and an elderly person is compared, it is observed that when the person ages globally, some methyl groups disappear. Thus, the epigenome can contribute to increasing life expectancy.

Other diseases

  • Artosclerosis.
  • Cardiovascular.
  • Cholesterol
  • Type II diabetes.
  • Autism.
  • Autoimmune disease.
  • Rubinstein Taybi syndrome, which is an intellectual and developmental disorder.
  • Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome, which is a congenital growth disorder.
  • ATR X syndrome: An intellectual disability.
  • Angelman syndrome.
  • Prader Willi syndrome.

Many of these diseases are caused by a combination of several types of changes in different genes. Other of these changes are just genetic mutations that can be transmitted within the family and others that occur due to environmental or other factors.

In what year were the first epigenetic alterations seen?

In 1980 when the first oncogenes were rediscovered , it began to be seen that some methylations were found in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). However, at that time there was no good technology that studied these biochemical alterations. Today, if there are, and recently a project has been launched to sequence the human epigenome.

Can epigenetic changes be controlled through drugs and habits?

Yes, they can, since the human epigenome is easily moldable by habits. In addition, there are several drugs with epigenetic action that can help. These serve to acetylate histones and demethylate DNA, the former helps against lymphoma and the latter against a type of leukemia.

Important points of epigenetics that are good to highlight

Found in all aspects of life

It is found in food, in the environment, when exercising, and in aging. All these actions can cause chemical modifications and can silence or turn off genes.

It is reversible

Due to its chemical nature, modifications can be deleted or added. In turn, there are many modifications that can turn genes on or off, causing a variety of possible combinations.

It can make a person different

Although the human being has almost identical genetic material, all genetic modifications can achieve changes in the diversity of genes. Which, determine several characteristics, such as: the color of the skin, hair and eyes or others that can not be seen with the naked eye.

In short, epigenetics is the ability of the body’s cells to adapt to the environment, and now that you already have all this information you can improve your lifestyle.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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