New genetic testing is paving the way for disease prevention, optimal health, and longevity.
In 1990 the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health began the Human Genome Project (HGP). The goal of the project was to develop a reference of DNA sequences for the entire human genome. The project was multinational and was completed in 2003, completing the sequences for about 99% of the human gene with 99.9% accuracy. This project opened the door for the future of genomics, including genomics of health. In 2008 the International Genome Sample Resource and the 1000 Genome Project were launched in a successful attempt to catalog the human variation and genotype, which would be available in an international database.
Thanks to the success of the HGP and the 1000 Genome project, we now have a vast amount of information available associated with the human gene and their workings. HGP opened the door for further studies that identified the genetic differences which predispose a person to specific diseases and what protects one from disease. For medicine, this offers the availability to identify the risk of disease before clinical symptoms emerge.
New and evolving fields are those of nutrigenomics and epigenetics. These fields look at the connection between our environment, nutrition, and our gene variations. Nutrigenomics specifically examines the link between health, diet, and genetic variations. How one’s particular cells respond to the food we consume can change the expression of those cells to optimal health. Polygenic diseases, which include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, are on the rise, most likely due to lifestyle changes and not the sequence of genetics. Nutritional genomics aims to prevent, treat, and manage polygenic disease with tailored therapies for individuals based on their genetic make-up.
Epigenetics looks at how the environment, including nutrition, creates changes in our genes by changing our DNA. Epigenetic changes are reversible by changing your environment or behaviors. Types of epigenetic changes include DNA methylation, histone modification, and non-coding RNA. DNA methylation is the process of adding a chemical group in order to turn a gene “on” or turn it “off.” Histone modification is the process of DNA wrapping tightly around a histone preventing access by protein. When this happens, a gene becomes wrapped or unwrapped and is considered either “on” or “off.” The last way of turning genes “on” or “off” is the process of non-coding RNA, which recruits proteins in order to modify histones.
We have known for centuries about the impact a growing fetus’s environment can have on the end result. Early in development mom’s nutrition plays a critical role in cell signaling and the development of a healthy fetus. For example, the connection between folic acid and spinal cord formation. After birth, a wide variety of environmental factors, including social interactions, physical activity, diet, and other factors, affect our epigenome. Even into old age, our cells are listening and taking cues from our environment, just like the fetal cells, our environment will affect the process of aging.
The fields of nutrigenomics and epigenomics are opening the door for truly personalized and targeted medicine. We can now run tests to sequence an individual’s genes and gain an understanding of what type of nutrition, exercise, sleep schedule, and much more are needed for optimal health.
Learn more about how Natural Bio Health can optimize and improve your health. Our wellness team offers in-person and telemedicine consultations. To schedule your complimentary consultation, contact us here. We serve patients in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Round Rock, and College Station.
~Natural Bio Health Wellness Team