In a world where you’re born and grow up in a hospital and have to prove that you’re biologically healthy, that’s a little tough.
But it’s something that we’re going to have to live with for a long time, says Jia Zhang, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a pioneer in the field of epigenetics.
“That’s a very interesting time for science to explore what it means to be biologically,” she says.
That means exploring the connection between what’s happening in our brains now and what’s going to happen in the future, says Michael Strain, a biochemist at Columbia University and an expert on the epigenetics field.
“There are some fascinating and exciting things happening in the epigenome,” he says.
“What’s the role of that?”
What’s the link between what is happening in your brain now and the effects of the chemicals in your body?
Strain has worked with Zhang to study the epigenetic pathways in the brains of mice and humans.
He’s been studying how a chemical called acetylcholine alters brain cells, which in turn affects how they communicate and control behavior.
In a mouse, a piece of acetyl, which is a molecule that is released when the brain is stimulated by a light, changes the number of acetaminophen molecules that are released into the blood.
These molecules are used to make acetylated drugs, which are drugs that are similar to amphetamines, or speed up or slow down the actions of neurotransmitters like dopamine.
The chemicals are then released into our bloodstream.
Zhang says that it’s possible that the acetyl group is part of the reason that the dopamine system has the same effects in humans as it does in mice.
“The dopamine system is an enzyme that’s involved in the release of acetoacetate,” she explains.
It’s the same in your hippocampus and cortex,” she adds. “
So, if you’re addicted to acetoacetic acid or cocaine, then you’re less responsive to dopamine.
It’s the same in your hippocampus and cortex,” she adds.
“But it seems that the same thing is happening with the dopamine pathway.”
Zhang and her team found that acetylation can change how much acetyl-CoA is released into a person’s brain.
They also found that if they changed the levels of acetaldehyde, which can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, the enzyme acetyltransferase, or TAT, could also be altered.
Zhang thinks that changes in acetylacetate levels in the brain might be responsible for some of the changes in the risk factors for Alzheimer, including changes in memory.
“One thing that I think we’re finding is that we can change the acetal chain of acetone, which could make it easier for acetylacetic acids to be converted to acetyl CoA,” she tells Shots.
“This is a really exciting avenue.”
Strain agrees that it is exciting to see that the epigenomes are beginning to have an impact on how we live.
“We’re beginning to see some changes in epigenetics,” he tells Shots, referring to changes in how genes interact with DNA.
“And that has some important implications for the way we live our lives.”
What can we do to protect ourselves?
“We need to be very cautious in our actions,” says Strain.
And then, when we can control them, we need to have a plan to mitigate the risks. “
Because these chemicals are very potent, it is very important that we learn how to control these chemicals.
In the meantime, Zhang and Strain are looking at ways to develop safer alternatives to chemicals like acetyl chloride. “
I would say the best thing you can do is make sure that the chemicals that you are exposed to are safe,” he adds.
In the meantime, Zhang and Strain are looking at ways to develop safer alternatives to chemicals like acetyl chloride.
The key, they say, is to find ways to reduce the levels that acetylene and other chemical substances are released.
“It’s really important to learn more about the role that the chemical system plays in the body,” Strain says.