58 Methylated DNA Building Blocks Identified
The aim of the research was to determine if higher levels of methylation had any correlation to mortality. In the 14 year study, 1900 older adults participated, providing blood samples in which the researchers extracted their DNA. The building blocks of DNA (called CpGs), consist of about a half million positions in the genome. Researchers had a rigorous task of finding only those CpG blocks that methyl groups are able to attach to. They found 58 methylated CpGs related to the participants higher mortality rates since many had died since the study began.
Smoking appears to have the strongest impact on the health of the genome and of the 58 CpGs found by the researchers, these DNA building blocks when altered were all associated with many different diseases. In fact, researchers found that 22 out of the 58 CpGs were previously associated with methylation caused by smoking in earlier studies. However, not all is lost as DNA methylation is reversible if people stop smoking. Researchers think the mortality risk could drop dramatically after cessation of smoking.
Ten DNA Positions Responsible For Higher Mortality
Scientists went on to discover that 10 of the 58 CpGs were prime culprits in higher mortality risks associated with cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the study, participants with a compromised genome due to methylation of their DNA had a mortality risk seven times higher than those participants who showed no abnormal DNA.
The researchers were surprised that only ten positions in our genome are responsible for so many diseases and higher mortality rates. But methylation has proven to be the most damaging alteration to our DNA. The 10 most significant CpGs are proving to be the most accurate of all established epigenetic risk profiles used to predict individual life spans. Now comes the important research into finding the most effective preventative measures to protect our DNA from methylation and increase our potential life span.