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July 5, 2013

Brain Epigenome Found To Change Dramatically From Infancy to Adolescence



Brain Epigenome Found To Change Dramatically From Infancy to Adolescence

 Epigenetics
Researchers have discovered that the frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for the conduct and the acquisition of new information) of individuals undergoing a major change from birth to the end of adolescence.




The experience of parents with their children and teachers with their students shows how they change their behaviors and knowledge from infancy to adolescence. So far, little is known of the causes that could cause these changes.

Now, an article published in the journal Science in collaboration with the group of Manel Esteller, director of the Program in Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Institute of Biomedical Research (IDIBELL), ICREA Research Professor of Genetics University of Barcelona, ​​gives us an important key to understanding this process.

Changes in Epigenome of the cerebral cortex throughout life. From birth to adolescence there is a considerable increase in methylation. DNA (blue line) that from adulthood remains stable unless there is a disease.Image Source: IDIBELL

Researchers have discovered that the frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for the conduct and the acquisition of new information) of individuals undergoes a major change from birth to the end of adolescence: its epigenome changes.

The study analyzes the epigenome of newborn babies, and young adults aged 16 to 25 and 50 years in the United States and Catalonia.

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The epigenome is the set of chemical signals that are responsible for turning on or off genes in our DNA. Discovering Science shows that these epigenetic signals, genetic methylation increased progressively up to the end of adolescence and entry into adulthood.

"The results of the study show that DNA methylation is essential for the formation of areas of communication between neurons (synapses)" Esteller said. "The brain is divided into white matter (glia) and gray (neurons) with different types of cells with different functions. The patterns of DNA methylation are specific genes that are expressed in certain cell types. Even in the gray matter, there are subtypes of pyramidal neurons as producers of the neurotransmitter GABA that have sub-patterns of DNA methylation specific. "

Manel Esteller explained that DNA methylation in neurons is different from the other cells of our body. "If the normal is called MCG-5, of the neurons is called MCH-5: This is how to put an accent on a word or clause, in this case a gene to change its meaning."

This finding may have profound importance in understanding the biology of the brain as well to explain the plasticity of the body to learning and life experiences.  It may also help in understanding the causes of behavioral disorders and psychiatric illnesses. Now, the researchers will investigate whether small changes in DNA methylation program on postnatal development could be related to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism or schizophrenia.



SOURCE  IDIBELL

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