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A new study led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Rush University Medical Center, reveals how early changes in brain DNA methylation are involved in Alzheimer’s disease. DNA methylation is a biochemical alteration of the building blocks of DNA and is one of the markers that indicate whether the DNA is open and biologically active in a given region of the human genome.
The study is published online August 17, 2014 in Nature Neuroscience.
According to the researchers, this is the first large-scale study employing epigenome-wide association (EWAS) studies—which look at chromosomal make-up and changes—in relation to the brain and Alzheimer’s disease.
"Our study approach may help us to better understand the biological impact of environmental risk factors and life experiences on Alzheimer’s disease," said Philip L. De Jager, MD, PhD, Program in Translational Neuropsychiatric Genomics, BWH Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, lead study author. "There are certain advantages to studying the epigenome, or the chemical changes that occur in DNA. The epigenome is malleable and may harbor traces of life events that influence disease susceptibility, such as smoking, depression and menopause, which may influence susceptibility to Alzheimer’s and other diseases."