A tête-à-tête about TET2

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Epigenetics is the study of how non-genetic factors affect genetics. It explores the influence of lifestyle or environmental factors on the activity surrounding our DNA.

Recently researchers have been investigating epigenetics within the context of Parkinson’s, and they have discovered a “master switch” that could represent an important target for future therapeutic treatments for the condition.

The research focuses on a protein called TET2.

In today’s post, we will discuss what epigenetics means, review the new research, and consider what the implications of these new findings could be.

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Not the same. Source: AutismBlog.

Identifical twin studies have been extremely useful to our understanding of conditions like Parkinson’s (Click here to read a previous SoPD post on twins research in Parkinson’s)

But the funny thing about identical twins is that in 100% of cases they aren’t identical.

Yeah sure, they initially share exactly the same DNA, but the further they get away from that magically moment of conception, the less alike they are.

Same DNA, subtle differences. Source: National Geographic

And we’re not talking about personality or likes/dislikes here.

As biological organisms twins diverge significantly after conception and as the age through life. But if they share the same DNA – the same genetic blueprint – how are these difference possible?

The answer to this question may lie in epigenetics.

What is epigenetics?

Continue reading “A tête-à-tête about TET2”

New Research -Shared genetic features

There was an interesting new study published yesterday:

Sanchez-Mut-Title

Title: Human DNA methylomes of neurodegenerative diseases show common epigenomic patterns.
Author: Sanchez-Mut JV, Heyn H, Vidal E, Moran S, Sayols S, Delgado-Morales R, Schultz MD, Ansoleaga B, Garcia-Esparcia P, Pons-Espinal M, de Lagran MM, Dopazo J, Rabano A, Avila J, Dierssen M, Lott I, Ferrer I, Ecker JR, Esteller M.
Journal: Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Jan 19;6:e718. doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.214.
PMID: 26784972 – this article is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it.

The researchers were curious to look for common genetic markers between the major neurodegenerative disease. It is often forgotten that the different neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, share some common pathological features (the characteristic signs of the diseases in the brain).

For example, when you look at the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, approximately 50% of them will also have the alpha-synuclein-containing ‘Lewy bodies’ in their brains, which are more commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. Likewise, Beta-amyloid plaques and neurotangles, which are characteristic features of Alzheimer’s disease are commonly found in Parkinson’s disease brains (click here and click here for more on this topic).

To find these shared genetic markers, the researcher extracted DNA from the prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 9) of the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer-like neurodegenerative profile associated with Down’s syndrome samples (more than 75 percent of people with Down Syndrome aged 65 and older develop Alzheimer’s disease – click here for more on this).

Importantly, the researchers were looking at DNA methylation, which is a commonly used tool that allows a cell to fix genes in the “off” position. That is to say, the gene can not be activated. Thus the researchers were looking for regions of DNA that have to closed down.

They found that a very defined set of genes are turned off in these neurodegenerative disorders, suggesting that these condition might have similar underlying mechanisms or processes that subsequently develop into different clinical entities. These newly identified regions of DNA methylation will be further investigated with the goal that one day they may be used as biomarkers in diagnosis and also as potential new targets for the regenerative therapies.