✍️ Author: Dr Eleni Christoforidou
🕒 Approximate reading time: 4 minutes
Epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression without alterations in the DNA sequence, is shedding new light on the complex mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases.
Epigenetics involves changes to gene expression that do not involve alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. These changes include DNA methylation, histone modification, and non-coding RNA molecules, which can all alter the structure of the chromatin and subsequently regulate gene expression.
A growing body of research suggests that epigenetic alterations may play a crucial role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Alzheimer's Disease: Research has shown that epigenetic changes, particularly DNA methylation and histone modifications, may be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
Parkinson's Disease: Aberrant DNA methylation and changes in histone modifications have been reported in patients with Parkinson's disease.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Altered expression of non-coding RNAs has been implicated in the pathogenesis of ALS.
Given the potential role of epigenetics in neurodegenerative diseases, there's growing interest in developing epigenetic therapies. These therapies aim to modify the epigenetic state of specific genes or genomic regions, with the hope of halting or even reversing disease progression.
However, the development of epigenetic therapies faces several challenges. The brain is a highly complex organ with many different cell types, each with its own epigenetic landscape. Targeting the epigenetic changes in the correct cell type without affecting others is a significant challenge.
While we are still in the early stages of understanding the complex relationship between epigenetics and neurodegeneration, it's clear that this is a promising area of research. Further exploration of the epigenetic landscape in neurodegenerative diseases could pave the way for novel therapeutic strategies.