Articles that explore the ways in which the environment influences gene expression and epigenetic marks, including information on pollution, toxins, and global warming.

The Rwanda Genocide Left Lasting Marks on the DNA of Traumatized Women and Their Children

February 1, 2022 Natalie Crowley

In 1994, one of the most horrific civil wars took place in the rural country of Rwanda. In a period of about 100 days, nearly one million people died. Most of the dead were Tutsi – a minority group that was targeted for extermination by the government. In the aftermath of the genocide, many survivors were left with mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Although decades have passed, the Rwandan people continue to cope with [more…]

How Epigenetics Helps the Hydra Grow a New Head

January 4, 2022 Natalie Crowley

If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you’ve probably heard of the Hydra – a gigantic multi-headed serpent that regenerates two heads for each one it loses. It is after this creature that a small freshwater invertebrate is duly named. The Hydra vulgaris, also known simply as Hydra, is a unique organism that exists in a continuous state of renewal. Cut off its head, and it will grow a new one. How it does this, however, has fascinated scientists for centuries [more…]

Epigenetic Mechanisms May Help Plants Remember and Adapt to Hot Weather

June 22, 2021 Tim Barry

Global warming is an ever-growing threat to ecosystems all over the world. Temperatures are continually rising, and weather patterns have become more irregular and aggressive—making it difficult for all organisms to survive. Plants are an essential part of our ecosystem, and their survival can benefit from the rising CO2 levels, but severely high temperatures present a larger problem. Since plants can’t adjust to their climates by getting up and moving around, they must internally regulate their response to heat. Remembering [more…]

Pandemic-Related Lifestyle Changes Could Affect the Epigenetic Regulation of Your Skin

September 22, 2020 Clarissa Li

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world, and many countries have been devastated by the fallout. As this virus swept the world, it has not only changed many aspects of the global economy but also has transformed the way we live our everyday lives. The skin is one of the major body parts that have been impacted by the coronavirus. It’s apparent that frequent usage of personal protective equipment and excessive personal hygiene could trigger different skin conditions. These skin conditions [more…]

Epigenetics May Help Rebuild The Coral Reefs

February 18, 2020 Natalie Crowley

Coral reefs are some of the most extraordinary and diverse ecosystems on the planet. Taking up only a fraction of the ocean’s surface, they support about a quarter of all marine life. But their existence is continually being threatened by a variety of factors including pollution, global warming, and destructive fishing techniques. For years, scientists have investigated various ways to save the corals, from breeding them in a lab to making them more resistant to pollution. Now, a new study [more…]

Epigenetic Pathway Found in Ants May Help Explain Human Social Life

December 17, 2019 Andrea P

Social and environmental cues continue to shape our identities well into adulthood, including how we interact with each other socially. But what specific molecular mechanisms are at play here, that allow for this extended plasticity, and—providing a more immediate challenge—how do we study them? In a study out of the University of Pennsylvania, a group of researchers led by esteemed epigeneticist Dr. Shelley Berger wanted to dive into determining the role that epigenetics plays in social behavior. “How behavior becomes [more…]

“Junk DNA” Might Actually Help to Breed Drought-Resistant Crops

November 12, 2019 Andrea P

From instruments through algorithms, new technology is empowering the scientific community to not only discover novel concepts but also to reshape existing ones. A new study from the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge (SLCU) as well as the Department of Plant Sciences has redefined the function and potential of transposable elements (TEs)—also known as transposons—in ways that could have a major impact on everything from economics and alleviating our global food shortage, through health and medicine. Transposable elements [more…]

Epigenetic Mechanism May Promote Healthy Aging

October 29, 2019 Andrea P

Aging is one of life’s inevitable processes, and has been a hot topic for scientific research over the last few years. As we know, aging has many epigenetic factors, and can be affected by a number of different things like depression, bipolar disorder, and menopause. Generally, aging results in negative health effects due to the decreasing ability for the body to repair damage done to tissues and DNA over time. But Dr. Baris Tursun from the Max Delbrück Center for [more…]

Epigenetic Mechanism Can Repair Plants Damaged By Stress

October 8, 2019 Andrea P

Plants are an integral part of our ecosystem, major contributors to everything from purifying air quality all the way through providing a critical source of food within the food chain. They are constantly subjected to every environmental stressor imaginable, from natural disasters through manmade pollution. Understanding their relative vulnerability and their potential stress tolerance sheds light on how secure they are within our ecosystems, as well as what we can potentially try to do to protect them.  Protecting plant genetic material is [more…]

Epigenetic Changes May Pass Avoidance Behavior Down Multiple Generations

September 10, 2019 Andrea P

Science classes teach that an individual’s traits are mainly encoded in their genetic sequence—or DNA—which then gets transcribed into RNA that subsequently gets translated into the proteins that carry out cellular functions. But while this is generally true for the majority of traits, it does not account for how all characteristics are passed down across generations. It turns out, epigenetics may play a large role in how traits are inherited. Researchers at Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology and the Lewis-Sigler [more…]

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