Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Grandma's diet gave me autoimmune disease

"your grandmother’s diet may still be affecting you today"

What your grandparents and parents ate long before you were conceived can determine how healthy you are today. Your grandma's diet could be the reason you are ill with an autoimmune disease. New discoveries in genetics show that genes can be turned off for generations by exposure to environmental chemicals. This new field of study is called epigenetics. The process of permanently turning off genes for a lifetime or more, even for generations, is called methylation.

What appears to be an autoimmune gene running in families could be simply an epigenetic change that happened in the lifetime of an ancestor. The genes for health are still present in affected family members just turned off. The discovery of methylation of genes has complicated the search for the autoimmune disease genes, but not stopped the search. In fact as these genes are discovered in families with true genetic causes of autoimmune, researchers will have a place to look for epigenetic changes as well.

Good news is that there are now three drugs approved for cancer therapy and an antibiotic (rapamycin) that will turn methylated genes back on. From the article referenced above: "three epigenetic drugs have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Dacogen (decitabine) and Vidaza (azacitidine) are both demethylating agents that treat the pre-leukemic bone-marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome; and Zolinza (vorinostat) is used for treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. "

Turning genes back on should be a lot easier than giving us new genes with gene therapy. Reversing methylation is another promising area of hope for the cure of some autoimmune disease.

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