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- Epigenomes of Newborns and Centenarians Differ: New Clues to Increasing Life Span
According to Wilkinson, barefoot running is a hot topic among physiologists and foot racers, but he warns against misinformation on some internet sites. With proper supervision, athletes new to barefoot running can quickly adapt and enjoy the benefits of those who habitually run barefoot, some of whom see a 3% to 6% performance boost. See the 1/27/2010 entry, “Barefoot is better.”
Look at us. We applaud our champions at the Olympics and carry on as if we inhabit this planet alone. We think we are so smart and fit, because we don’t spend enough time learning from our animal trainers – not humans who train animals, but animals who can train us, if we paid closer attention. For me, I’d like to learn how the guillemots do it.
Epigenetics refers to codes, processes and functions “above” genetics, that control and regulate the genetic code: a “code above the code,” as it were. Unlike a simple DNA strand, the epigenetic code has a multitude of players that scientists are still struggling to understand. For a good introduction, watch this 12-minute video on YouTube; for more depth, read the book The Mysterious Epigenome: What Lies Beyond DNA by Woodward and Gills (available from the C.S. Lewis Society and Amazon.com).
Aging and epigenetics: Let’s begin with one close to home: aging. “Epigenomes of Newborns and Centenarians Differ: New Clues to Increasing Life Span,” announced Science Daily in bold red type, alongside a photo of a grandfather holding an infant. A new study shows defects due to mutations not just to genetic code base pairs, but to some of the epigenetic marks like methyl tags that help switch genes on and off. “The results show that the centenarian presents a distorted epigenome that has lost many switches (methyl chemical group), put in charge of inappropriate gene expression and, instead, turn off the switch of some protective genes.” Understanding these epigenomic processes will, obviously, be vital to improving the health and longevity of every human who gets older.
Micro-RNA regulators of regulators: Nature (June 28) reported that two enzymes “autoregulate” the production of micro-RNA’s (miRNA) which, in turn, regulate gene expression in many pathways (Zisoulis et al, Nature 486, pp. 541–544, doi:10.1038/nature11134). This discovery is “expanding the functions of the miRNA pathway in gene regulation,” they said.
Make space for the non-junk: “The myth of junk DNA” continues to get exposed. New Scientist reported that mouse “junk DNA” is vital for gene regulation. Hannah Krakauer’s opening sentence gives the gist of the article: “Some junk is worth keeping. Non-coding, or junk, mouse DNA contains vast amounts of information vital to gene function – and those regulatory functions take up much more space on the genome than the all-important coding segments.”
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