Friday, November 22, 2013

Aging Impacts Epigenome in Human Skeletal Muscle

Buck Institute research involves first genome-wide DNA methylation study in disease-free tissue

November 20, 2013  Novato, California: Our epigenome is a set of chemical switches that turn parts of our genome off and on at strategic times and locations. These switches help alter the way our cells act and are impacted by environmental factors including diet, exercise and stress. Research at the Buck Institute reveals that aging also effects the epigenome in human skeletal muscle. The study, appearing on line in Aging Cell, provides a method to study sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of muscle mass that begins in middle age.

The results came from the first genome-wide DNA methylation study in disease-free individuals. DNA methylation involves the addition of a methyl group to the DNA and is involved in a particular layer of epigenetic regulation and genome maintenance.   In this study researchers compared DNA methylation in samples of skeletal muscle taken from healthy young (18 - 27 years of age) and older (68 – 89 years of age) males. Buck faculty and lead scientist Simon Melov, PhD, said researchers looked at more than 480,000 sites throughout the genome. “We identified a suite of epigenetic markers that completely separated the younger from the older individuals – there was a change in the epigenetic fingerprint,” said Melov.  “Our findings were statistically significant; the chances of that happening are infinitesimal.”

Melov said scientists identified  about six-thousand sites throughout the genome that were differentially methylated with age and that some of those sites are associated with genes that regulate activity at the neuromuscular junction which connects the nervous system to our muscles.  “It’s long been suspected that atrophy at this junction is a .....

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