Reversing the Epigenetic Effects

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NARRATOR: Humans are resilient organisms and studies show that negative epigenetic effects need not be permanent.

Dana Dolinoy, Environmental Epigenetics and Nutrition Lab, University of Michigan School of Public Health:

Unlike a genetic mutation, which we can do nothing about, an epigenetic change we may be able to do something about. CU of brown and yellow mice.

NAR: When Dana Dolinoy fed her pregnant yellow obese mice an enriched diet, they gave birth to healthy, brown slender pups. The right environment was able to reverse the effects of a chemically induced epigenetic change. And Michael Meaney was able to reverse the epigenetic effects of his nervous, low-licked rat pups.

Michael Meaney, Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology, McGill University :

At the time of weaning we put them into enriched circumstances similar to a daycare environment. And we then studied these animals in adulthood and when we looked we found that in fact there was a huge effect of enrichment.

NAR: The low-licked rats in this study behaved more like high-licked rats, exploring their surroundings with more assurance and less fear. The enriched environment induced new changes to the epigenome, which overcame the effects of their early epigenetic programming.

NAR: The research led to a key new understanding of how the genome works. While genes never change, the epigenome can, at key points in life, be remarkably plastic, adapting to individual experiences and changing social conditions.