A new study, carried out by researchers from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, finds that the environment can change the expression of a key gene in the brain, influencing intelligence much more than it was previously thought.
Having analyzed the characteristics of a number of genes of 1,500 healthy adolescents and compared the results with the IQ scores and many neurological traits, the researchers discovered a strong relationship between the epigenetic modifications of one particular gene and general IQ. It means that various experiences of our life not only affect the wiring of the brain, but also the way the genes function at a basic level.
The study first author Jakob Kaminski says: “Environmentally-induced gene activity now joins the ranks of other factors known to influence IQ test performance, such as poverty and genetic constitution. In the study, we were able to observe how individual differences in IQ test results are linked to both epigenetic changes and differences in brain activity which are under environmental influences.”
The gene MeXis was considered as “unhelpful” gene because it was presumed that it had no function as it didn’t make any protein. Nevertheless, the recent studies suggested that the genes of this type can perform important biological functions without making proteins. Instead, they are producing a special class of molecules, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs).
Senior author of the study Dr. Peter Tontonoz, the Frances and Albert Piansky Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says: “What this study tells us is that lncRNAs are important for the inner workings of cells involved in the development of heart disease. Considering many genes like MeXis have completely unknown functions, our study suggests that further exploring how other long non-coding RNAs act will lead to exciting insights into both normal physiology and disease.”
A new research from Northwestern University, USA, suggests that experiences in childhood can influence DNA and alter it for the rest of human’s life.
A team of researchers analyzed over hundred genes associated with inflammation, looking for hints of epigenetic changes, changes that can be influenced by everything we do from how we sleep to how wealthy we are.
One of the more prominent forms of these epigenetic processes is methylation, one of nine of those genes was found to have a close relationship with a number of childhood variables including household socioeconomic status in childhood, extended absence of a parent in childhood, and even whether the person was born in the dry season.
In the future, this study could help explain the prevalence of cardiovascular and certain inflammatory diseases in specific communities.