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Researching the Epigenetics

The growth and development of an organism result in the activation and deactivation of different parts due to chemical reactions at strategic periods and locations. The genetic changes associated with the aging of an organism give rise to the concept of epigenetics. The concept of epigenetics deals with the heritable changes depicted in gene expressions that do not reflect the alterations of the DNA sequence. Epigenetics is a normal and natural event, but it can occur due to aspects of age, the state of diseases, and environmental factors. Research in the area of epigenetics explores the multidimensional aspects of the theory. This paper will evaluate a study carried out on epigenetics based on the results and applicability of the findings to human beings.

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A study carried out to identify the relationship between epigenetic variations and DNA methylation between monozygotic twins provides an in-depth view of the genetic aspects of the theory concerning environmental factors. The article, “Epigenetic Variation in Monozygotic Twins: A Genome-Wide Analysis of DNA Methylation in Buccal Cells”, presents a study that investigated genetic variations of ten pairs of monozygotic twins. The pairs were between the ages of 8-18 years thereby facilitating the investigation of the methylation levels of the subjects situated in different environments. The study is valuable since it unmasks the factors responsible for DNA methylation variations associated with buccal cells with respect to genome-wide attributes of children and adolescents. Therefore, the field of epigenetics is enhanced by this study. This assertion holds because the functional genome regions of varying pairs of twins are considered to deduce the explanation of the biological and environmental factors associated with epigenetics.

The study involved ten pairs of twins whereby the buccal cells were collected from the inside of the subjects’ cheeks. The Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip Kit was used to generate the epigenome-wide methylation data. The results “showed that individual stochastic and environmental factors handle increased DNA methylation variations, especially in CpG-poor regions” (van Dongen et al., 2014, p. 348). The study established that it was essential to investigate inheritable and shared environmental factors accountable for the methylation of buccal DNA.

The research study is vital for understanding the epigenetics theory regarding health and aging aspects. The results of the study on the MZ twins indicated an average correlation of 0.54 portraying the low heritability in the genome-wide CpGs (van Dongen et al., 2014). However, the average correlation of methylation of the individual twins was low in all the genome-wide measurements. Concerning epigenetics, health issues about the methylation of cells tend to vary depending on genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, the twin may portray similar or different variations in their aspects of aging depending on the shared and independent factors.

On the aspect of aging, the MZ twins were derived from two age brackets that facilitated the collection of data from different age groups. The examination of the MZ twins allowed the analysis of the variations in the methylation of DNA between the various age groups to derive the epigenetics aspect of age. The pairs were between the ages of 8-10 and 18-19 thereby indicating that the younger pairs showed smaller variations in methylation as compared to the young adults (van Dongen et al., 2014). The findings portray that epigenetic differences develop throughout the life of monozygotic twins concerning their genetic and environmental aspects.

The selection of monozygotic twins as human subjects in the study ensured that the results reflect other individuals in society. Since the results indicate that environmental and stochastic occurrences account for the variations of methylation, using human subjects in the study enhanced the validity and reliability of the findings. The environmental aspects relate to the structure of social settings coupled with how the activities that an individual engages in affect his/her epigenetics. Stochastic events also refer to random occurrences that affect an individual’s emotional and physical growth. For instance, crises affecting one twin may result in varied methylation of his/her DNA as opposed to the other twin. Therefore, the human subjects were essential for enhancing the comprehensiveness of the study.

References

Angel, L., & Angel, J. (2006). Minority group status and healthful aging: social structure still matters. American Journal of Public Health, 96(7), 1152–1159.

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Valliant, G. (2002). Aging Well. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company.

van Dongen, J., Ehli, A., Slieker, C., Bartels, M., Weber, M., Davies, E.,…Boomsma, D. I. (2014). Epigenetic Variation in Monozygotic Twins: A Genome-Wide Analysis of DNA Methylation in Buccal Cells. Genes, 5(2), 347-365.

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