Human cells remember bad diets, manifest after-effects for long

February 2nd, 2009 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 2 (IANS) Human cells can ‘remember’ and reproduce the effect of a poor diet on the body, perhaps helping explain why obesity and some diseases run in families for generations. Researchers at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute (BIDIDI) have shown that very specific molecular events occur after the consumption of food high in glucose, causing chemical changes to genetic controls.

The research team led by BIDIDI’s Assam El-Osta, has found that this effect can continue for upto weeks after exposure to the food.

“We now know that chocolate bar you had this morning can have very acute effects, and those effects continue for up to two weeks later, this is what we refer to as the burden of memory,” El-Osta, an associate professor at the institute, said.

“The changes initiated by diet create a kind of “ghost” that lives within our genes, and that these epigenetic changes remember the effects of glucose and continue to respond to them for days or even weeks.”

The effect is a small chemical mark initiated by an enzyme. This enzyme “writes” a histone code that exists above our DNA and that code is driving what is now referred to as “metabolic memory”.

El-Osta and his team found that cells that showed profound changes in a high-glucose environment continued to exhibit those changes even when taken out of that environment.

In fact, the cells demonstrated a “memory” of that high glucose event even when the same cells were returned to their previous state. Studies were conducted in human aortic tissue and in mice, with the same results, said a BIDIDI release.

“Humans have only one genome and once the DNA sequence is written it does not really change nor can we really control it, but, we actually have thousands of epigenomes which we can control, and, these epigenetics changes mean what we eat and how we live can alter how our genes behave” El-Osta said.

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