Are Your Genes At Risk of Being Silenced Forever? - Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted December 21, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

Are your genes at risk of being silenced forever?

Imagine a biological process in your system turning your genes on and off without you knowing. I couldn't think of anything more concerning. After all, it is your body! And you want to be as alert as possible about what's going on inside of it.

The truth is, one biological process has the ability to do this.

Meet DNA methylation. It's a
biological process that changes the structure of DNA. It can affect how tightly your genes are packaged and how easily they're turned on or off. This process is an important part of normal cellular activity and helps protect cells from damage caused by stressors like toxins, poor diet, etc.

Methylation is the addition of a methyl group (-CH3) to a molecule. In the context of DNA, it's the addition of a methyl group to one of the bases, cytosine (C). DNA is formed by two strands that form a helical structure (also called the double helix). Each strand is comprised of nucleotide bases, which are labeled A, T, C, and G. There are four types of DNA methylation: 

  1. 5-methylcytosine: This is the most abundant and stable type of cytosine methylation.
  2. 5-hydroxymethylcytosine: This is a byproduct of active DNA demethylation and can be reformed into cytosine methylation.
  3. 6-methyladenine: This is found in bacterial DNA and is a result of the methylation of adenine.
  4. N6-methyladenine: This is also found in bacterial DNA and is the result of methylation of adenine, but it's a result of a different enzyme system.

The addition of a methyl group to cytosine alters the way the DNA is packaged and can affect how genes are expressed. Methylated DNA is less accessible to proteins that read DNA (transcription factors) and can lead to gene silencing. 

Silencing this process can change how genes are expressed. The methylated DNA is said to be "methylated" and the unmethylated DNA is said to be "unmethylated." More than 70% of human CpG islands (sequences on chromosomes) are methylated.

DNA METHYLATION AND GENE EXPRESSION

When genes contain methyl groups, they tend to remain inactive and gene expression is decreased. This is because methylation helps to "wrap" the DNA around proteins called histones, which keep them from being accessed by transcription factors. Transcription factors refer to a group of proteins that bind to the DNA and help turn genes on or off.

Even though methylation can decrease gene activity, this process is important for normal cellular functioning. For example, it helps control inflammation by turning off genes that promote inflammation. It also helps turn off tumor suppressor genes in cells that don't need to divide – like heart or nerve cells.

You see, the body is filled with many ways to turn gene expression on and off, even for what some call the "aging gene."

Scientists believe this aging gene can be turned off just like a switch.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ

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