Until now scientists have believed that the variations in traits such as our height, skin colour, tendency to gain weight or not, intelligence, tendency to develop certain diseases, etc., all of them traits that exist along a continuum, were a result of both genetic and environmental factors. But they didn’t know how exactly these things worked together. By studying ants, McGill researchers have identified a key mechanism by which environmental (or epigenetic) factors influence the expression of all of these traits, (along with many more).
Injuries that result in chronic pain, such as limb injuries, and those unrelated to the brain are associated with epigenetic changes in the brain which persist months after the injury, according to researchers at McGill University. Epigenetics explores how the environment – including diet, exposure to contaminants and social conditions such as poverty – can have a long-term impact on the activity of our genes.
Early life experience results in a broad change in the way our DNA is “epigenetically” chemically marked in the brain by a coat of small chemicals called methyl groups, according to researchers at McGill University. A group of researchers led by Prof. Moshe Szyf, a professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the Faculty of Medicine, and research scientists at the Douglas Institute have discovered a remarkable similarity in the way the DNA in human brains and the DNA in animal brains respond to early life adversity. The finding suggests an evolutionary conserved mechanism of response to early life adversity affecting a large number of genes in the genome.