Can oxidative stress modify the human epigenome?

Status: Complete
Year: 2019
Funded: $5,000
Grant Type: Grant in Aid

This research focuses on changes that occur during infection and inflammation, and will investigate whether oxidative stress generated by immune cells can change the pattern of chemical modifications that are added onto the DNA of human cells (the methylome).

This process is an important regulator of gene activity and acts at the interface between the environment and gene regulation (epigenetics). Epigenetic mechanisms can modulate health and disease development, and therefore, understanding processes, such as methylation of genomic DNA is crucial for understanding how health and disease states are related to environmental interactions.

Researcher // Dr Aaron Stevens – University of Otago

Dr Stevens is investigating whether nutritional supplementation with micronutrients can influence patterns of DNA methylation in the human genome.

More About Dr Aaron Stevens

What is the Human Epigenome?

The epigenome is a multitude of chemical compounds that can tell the genome what to do. The human genome is the complete assembly of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)-about 3 billion base pairs – that makes each individual unique. DNA holds the instructions for building the proteins that carry out a variety of functions in a cell. The epigenome is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells. When epigenomic compounds attach to DNA and modify its function, they are said to have “marked” the genome. These marks do not change the sequence of the DNA. Rather, they change the way cells use the DNA’s instructions. The marks are sometimes passed on from cell to cell as cells divide. They also can be passed down from one generation to the next.

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