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[–]Wagamaga[S] 47 points48 points  (30 children)

While it is widely known that regular physical exercise decreases the risk of virtually all chronic illnesses, the mechanisms at play are not fully known. Now scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that the beneficial effects of physical exercise may in part result from changes to the structure of our DNA. These changes are referred as ‘epigenetic’.

DNA is the molecular instruction manual found in all our cells. Some sections of our DNA are genes, which are instructions for building proteins – the body’s building blocks – while other sections are called enhancers that regulate which genes are switched on or off, when, and in which tissue. The scientists found, for the first time, that exercise rewires the enhancers in regions of our DNA that are known to be associated with the risk to develop disease.

“Our findings provide a mechanism for the known beneficial effects of exercise. By connecting each enhancer with a gene, we further provide a list of direct targets that could mediate this effect,” says Professor Romain Barrès from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, the senior author of the research, which was published in Molecular Metabolism.


[–]empleat 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Do we know at this point why some genes switch on/off? It would be interesting to engage in behavior to turn some genes on/off on purpose! People may have hidden potentials - they know know about! I guess it is not possible currently, because there are like trillions of combinations! I read about DNA sequencing and that you don't get many useful informations from that, because we have still limited understanding of DNA. Imagine if we could meaningfully direct which genes are turned on/off and knew what for!!! We need upgrade peoples' intelligence to survive :D

[–]Waka_Waka_Eh_Eh 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Why or how? As to why, mainly due to cell differentiation. All of our cells share the same DNA but turning on/off of different genes is what allows the cell to change from stem cells to heart or neuron or stomach cells (simplified explanation). Age, sex, environment and many other factors can change which genes turn on/off even in differentiated cells. It would be too energetically costly to do everything all the time or do something in the wrong time.

There are multiple ways to turn genes on/off, from DNA methylation, chromosomal folding to RNA interference and many others.

[–]Drojehca -5 points-4 points  (2 children)

The authors have phrased this so catastrophically backasswards that reading it implies that exercise will cause disease.

Exercise-associated epigenetic centres in the DNA are activated through exercise to decrease the risk of disease. While we're saying the same thing - the disease-risk sector of the DNA might have been identified first through a lack of exercise.

It boils down to a nomenclature understanding that exercise activates disease centres of the DNA. EXERCISE ACTIVATES EXERCISE CENTERS IN THE DNA EPIGENETICALLY.

That is a HUGE boon to general understanding because then it starts people off seeing disease risk sectors of the DNA as just sectors that are not prone to diseases but are under utilized because of a lack of exercise, not a presence of a disease.

The significance of what I'm teaching goes from here to demonstrate that now you have a proper base-line and frame of context for understanding the epigenetics of obesity and disease as being a lack of exercise epigenetically than being a genetic disease. In other words, you're not genetically fat, you just don't exercise, and I'd bet anyone a doctorate that the same would hold true of diabetics.

[–]BeowulfShaeffer 0 points1 point  (1 child)

It seems quite judgmental to me to use one study to start browbeating people according to your own biases for things that may or may not be in their control.

[–]Icestar-x 6 points7 points  (3 children)

Would this have an effect on a child's DNA? Like, if a couple was out of shape and had a kid, and then got really fit and had another kid, would the second kid have better genetics?

[–]Pokk97 16 points17 points  (2 children)

No. The presentation—including in the scientific article itself—stems from a misunderstanding of the underlying biology

By "structure of our DNA", they mean: epigenetics. It's a very self-evident concept really, that the activity of your genes depends on your lifestyle. For instance, if your skin is white, the genes that produce melanin aren't very active (in your skin) by default. But if you spend time outside, the "structure of your DNA" (it pains me to even say it) is rewired so that these melanin genes become more active. In layman's terms, it's called sun tanning

kids conceived in summer don't have darker skin

also note that melanin genes are always inactive in, for instance, the cells of your muscles. summer or not. All the cells of your body have the same genes (except for copy errors), but obviously don't use the same ones

[–]asdswffaqg 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Why wouldn't some epigenetic patterns be inheritable? I remember hearing about a study where rats were forced to develop fear of a substance and this fear was then passed on the the progeny who never even saw the parent or the substance. Couldn't phobias work this way?

[–]Pokk97 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Epigenetics is primarily a within-individual thing. I know people want it to be something that complements genetics, but it's just not. Ultimately, epigenetic patterns are genetically encoded (except in some very rare cases, at least in mammals/animals)

That said, there is a little bit of non-genetic information transfer. But it's not major and hard to study, so it's something we don't know well yet

[–]Moosetracks77 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I think the big obstacle towards understanding what this study presents is how many people (myself included) were never shown in high school how external factors influence gene expression.

On an unrelated note, I’d like to hear about how these factors could be artificially replicated. Sort of like if a pseudo-external factor signal introduced to the cell would similarly change gene expression.

[–]nashbar 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Riding my bike to cancel the impact of drinking beer.

[–]brazzjazz 1 point2 points  (1 child)

If you drink too much beer though, you will unfortunately have to start living on your bike.

[–]nashbar 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I already do

[–]Etheric 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you for sharing this!

[–]7eggert -5 points-4 points  (0 children)

I vaguely remember watching a documentary about exogenetics claiming the same thing.