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Science

Genes: early life experiences can have an impact

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A new study on fruit flies shows how early life experiences can have a very lasting impact on our genes. Also on longevity.

Health in old age depends in part on what a person experienced in their youth or even in the womb. Here, we’ve identified one way this happens, as changes in gene expression in young people can form a ‘memory’ that affects health more than half a lifetime later.

Dr Nazif Alic (UCL Institute of Healthy Aging, UCL Biosciences), lead author

In their previous study, the researchers found that a high-sugar diet inhibited a transcription factor called dFOXO . It is involved in glucose metabolism and affects longevity . They looked for the opposite effect by directly increasing Dfoxo activity.

The researchers activated dFOXO by increasing its levels in female fruit flies in the first three weeks of the fly’s adulthood. The discovery made is related to the fact that these first life experiences have given changes to the chromatin (DNA package). Such a discovery may lead to affect health in old age in people as well. 

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The study showed that gene expression memory can persist throughout life by influencing the activity of genes. Developing these ways to counter those changes could be deferred to later in life. One way to preserve people’s health for longer. Research is attempting to uncover the mechanisms of aging to understand the causes of age-related diseases and improve human health in old age. 

  • Early life experiences can have long-lasting impact on genes (sciencedaily.com)
 

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