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.”
For the study, more than 300 research groups were involved in the analysis of genetic data received from over 275,000 women from all around the globe. The scientists were able to identify 65 variations of genes that contributed to the development of cancer. Other 7 genes were identified specifically in association with breast cancers that lacked estrogen receptors.
Researcher Georgia Chenevix-Trench from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia says: “We know that breast cancer is caused by complex interactions between these genetic variants and our environment, but these newly discovered markers bring the number of known variants associated with breast cancer to around 180.”
A team of scientists from University College London and Imperial College London, UK, discovered genetic locations that may help to understand why some people have higher chances to develop type 2 diabetes.
For their study, the researchers used a UCL-developed method of genetic mapping. Using this method, they examined samples of European and African people, what counts for 5,800 cases of the condition and 9,700 cases of healthy controls. The researchers found that the three locations coincided with chromosomal regions regulating gene expression, contain epigenetic markers. Present genetic mutations are suggested to cause type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Toby Andrew, a lead researcher, says: “Before we can conduct the functional studies required in order to better understand the molecular basis of this disease, we first need to identify as many plausible candidate loci as possible. Genetic maps are key to this task, by integrating the cross-platform genomic data in a biologically meaningful way.”
A new imaging genetics study, led by the Professor Elvira Brattico from Aarhus University and conducted in two Italian hospitals in cooperation with the University of Helsinki (Finland), has found the first evidence that the influence of music and noise on affective behaviour and brain psychology are associated with genetically determined dopamine functionality.
The study discovered that a functional variation in dopamine D2 receptor gene modulates the influence of music as opposed to noise on mood states and emotion-related prefrontal and striatal brain activity. Results of the study showed mood improvement after listening to music in subjects with GG genotype and mood deterioration after listening to noise in subjects with GT genotype.
The director of the study Professor Elvira Brattico says: “This study represents the first use of the imaging genetics approach in the field of music and sounds in general. We are really excited about our results because they suggest that even a non-pharmacological intervention such as music, might regulate mood and emotional responses at both the behavioural and neuronal level.”
A new research, published in Nature Genetics, finds that women are less likely to develop cancer than men because they may be programmed to resist the disease. Scientists say they carry an extra copy of certain protective genes in their cells.
For their study, the researchers scanned the genomes of more than 4,000 tumour samples of 21 different types of cancer. Then they examined whether any of the irregularities were more common in male cells or female cells. The result is that of 800 genes found solely on the X chromosome, 6 were more frequently mutated and incapacitated in males than in women.
Dr Andrew Lane from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA, says: “Across virtually every type of cancer, occurrence rates are higher in males than in females.”