ABSTRACT: Epigenetics can be defined as stable, potentially heritable changes in the cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. As such, any observed phenotypic changes including organ development, aging and the occurrence of disease could be driven by epigenetic mechanisms in the presence of stable cellular DNA sequences. Indeed, with the exception of rare mutations the human genome-sequence has remained remarkably stable over the past centuries. In contrast, substantial changes to our environment as part of our modern life style have not only led to a significant reduction of certain infectious diseases but also seen the exponential increase in complex traits including obesity and multi factorial diseases such as auto-immune disorders. It is becoming increasingly clear that epigenetic mechanisms operate at the interface between the genetic code and our environment and a large body of existing evidence supports the importance of environmental factors such as diet and nutrition, infections and exposure to toxins on human health. This seems to be particularly the case during vulnerable periods of human development such as pregnancy and early life. Importantly, as the first point of contact for many of such environmental factors including nutrition, the digestive system is being increasingly linked to a number of “modern” pathologies. In this review article we aim to give a brief introduction to the basic molecular principals of epigenetics and provide a concise summary of the existing evidence for the role of epigenetic mechanisms in GI health and disease, hepatology and nutrition.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition|
|State||Accepted/In press - Nov 26 2015|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health