Aging is not only about your DNA.

6 min

The Human Genome

How long will we live is written in the genes? Yes, but also around. Or rather, above. And that is, in all that series of biochemical reactions (epigenetic: literally acting on the genome, precisely) that establish, among other things, which genes must be ” switched on” or “switched off”, when and how much. To put it as biologists, they determine the genes expression .

There are different types of reactions that act on the DNA, modifying its shape without changing the substance (i.e. without altering the genome sequence). Among the most studied is methylation, in which some enzymes “match” a molecule to one of the letters of the genes, thus making them dormant. It must be said, and it is very important, that all these reactions are reversible.

Epigenetic ageing is at the root of all the imbalances that lead to the gradual loss of the physiological reserve with which we are born and which has the potential to make us live in good health for many years.

Much of what we are depends on the continuous interaction between DNA and the environment. Some substances in food, for example, can change the expression of genes.

The reactions

Epigenetic reactions are strongly related to the cellular microenvironment. Which in turn is connected, at least in part, with the external environment and the way we live. The question is much more complex than it seems, but simplifying it is not wrong to say that much of what we are depends on this continuous interaction. Some substances in food, for example, can change the expression of genes precisely through methylation. The diet of future mothers can also alter the epigenetic baggage of offspring.

Why are we interested in this discussion? Because epigenetics helps to determine our physical (phenotype) and behavioral characteristics, stress response, susceptibility to disease, and yes, even longevity.

Our DNA is constantly subject to environmental “aggression” and errors that could generate cellular malfunctions, which are at the root of the metabolic and immune imbalances that age our body.

Epigenetic reactions are strongly related to the cellular microenvironment. Which in turn is connected with the external environment and the way we live. Some substances in food, for example, can change the expression of genes. The diet of future mothers can also alter the epigenetic baggage of offspring.

Epigenetics keeps the cell’s essential biological systems working and repairs DNA damage.

Epigenetic ageing

Luckily, there are some very sophisticated mechanisms for taking cover. And this is where epigenetics comes into play, by intervening in two ways: to keep the cell’s essential biological systems functioning and to repair DNA damage in a timely manner.

 

Epigenetics intervenes to maintain essential biological systems in the cell and to repair DNA damage in a timely manner.

Epigenetic ageing
Epigenetic mechanisms, however, also tend to change with age. And they can stop working or become defective. In this case, the cell loses the ability both to adapt to environmental and metabolic changes in the body and to repair its DNA.

We speak, then, of “epigenetic ageing”, which is the basis of all the imbalances that lead to the gradual loss of the physiological reserve with which we are born, and which has the potential to make us live in good health for many years.

You might ask what matters most in the way we age: genes or epigenetics? It’s hard to say, but the role of DNA has certainly diminished in recent years.

 

Epigenetic ageing is at the foundation of all the imbalances that lead to the gradual loss of the physiological reserve with which we are born and which has the potential to make us live in good health for many years.

References

Tammen SA et al. Epigenetics: the link between nature and nurtureMol Aspects Med. 2013 ; 34(4): 753–764


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