What Are Epigenetics, And How Do They Apply To Stem Cell Therapy?
Epigenetics. Not a word most of us are familiar with. But it’s going to be a word you’ll hear more often as the years go by, because this emerging field of science will impact our children, grandchildren, and our families’ generations beyond.
We all know that some health decisions we make today can have an impact on our families. From watching what we eat and drink while pregnant to the simple act of being a good example to our children regarding unhealthy habits, how we approach nutrition and lifestyle makes a difference. But did you know that what you eat or drink during your lifetime might have an effect on generations of your family line to come? That’s the groundbreaking discovery behind epigenetics.
The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), a leading stem cell therapy and regenerative research facility in the United States, reports that it closely follows the latest research on epigenetics and how it applies to today’s regenerative medicine. Will this emerging field of study help take regenerative medicine techniques like stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies to the next level?
To find out, let’s take a closer look.
The Basics Of Epigenetics
The word epigenetic means “on top of the genes,” and refer to an emerging area of medical science that may well have an enormous impact on how mankind addresses human. At the very core of our physical being lies DNA. Unless you have an identical twin, your DNA is completely unique to you. Virtually all cells within the body hold an exact copy of our DNA. Our DNA, no matter who we are, marks us as part of the human genome.
DNA is expressed differently in different areas of the body.
Of course, the human body isn’t comprised of one, singular type of cell. Liver cells behave differently than bone cells. Bone cells obey a different set of rules for function that those of our hair, muscles, etc. Each part of our bodies has their own set of rules to obey in order for the whole to work in a healthy and normal way. Yet, the DNA contained in all of these cells is exactly the same.
If this is true, then how do cells know to become bone cells instead of, say, heart cells?
The answer is epigenomes. An epigenome can be thought of as a kind of molecular instruction manual. They set much like a layer over the top of the DNA and inform it to “switch on” in a certain manner, depending on what function the cell needs to perform.
Think of DNA as a musical composition, and the epigenome as the conductor
In other words, if DNA were a musical composition, the epigenome acts as the conductor of the orchestra playing the music. The epigenome doesn’t alter the DNA. Rather, it tells the DNA what and how the genes in each body will play out. And, just as every orchestra and composer performs a musical piece at least a little differently than the others, each person is unique. Everyone’s personal orchestra is a little bit different.
Epigenetics, then, is the study and application of epigenomes. Without them, DNA would remain dormant, passively awaiting instructions. Instruction is sent via a chemical compound known as a methyl group. Methyl groups are made of carbon and hydrogen molecules. They attach to the genes so that they understand how to express themselves, when to turn on, and when to go dormant. Where the DNA is in the body influences how the methyl groups bind with the cells.
But, Wait, There’s More To Epigenetics
There are also other players in the world of epigenetics. Among them are histones. Histones are the protein molecules that the ladder of DNA winds itself around. But DNA doesn’t wind itself around the molecules in the exact same way for each histone. When the DNA is wound tightly around a histone, a gene is more boldly expressed than when the DNA is wound around it more loosely.
The whole orchestration within epigenetics goes something like this:
- Methyl groups inform a body cell what type of “music” it is (“You are a brain cell, and you’ll behave as one”).
- Histones control the “volume” of that cell’s music.
- The cells begin playing their unique area of song.
With methyl groups and histones orchestrating the type and function of each cell of the body, each one understands its purpose. Without the epigenome, every cell of the body would effectively be a “stem cell,” which is a type of cell that does nothing until it receives instructions on how to behave. The field of epigenetics has brought medical science knowledge up to a whole new level of understanding.
And what medical science has begun to learn is that external factors can play a crucial role in everyone’s personal epigenetics.
How The External Influences The Internal In Epigenetics
Did you know that our genome remains the same from our births to our deaths? Yet our epigenome changes all through our lives. It is in constant flux, orchestrating what genes should be switched off and which one should turn on. A prime example of this is puberty, and the profound changes our bodies undergo during that time. Pregnancy is another good example of how the epigenetics of our bodies change over time. But far less noticeable changes are taking place all the time, and some are affected by our environment or the things we do. They can include:
- The amount of physical activity we engage in.
- What we consume, and how much of it.
- The level of stress at any given time in our lives.
- Whether we choose to smoke or drink alcohol.
All of these and much more can change how our epigenomes are affected. They can influence how methyl groups connect to cells. And this can lead to illnesses, disorders, and other “flaws” in how the orchestra plays.
The changes that occur can be passed down through your genetic lineage.
Now, while it is true that someone’s personal epigenetics aren’t necessarily passed on to his/her children and grandchildren, it is also true that they can and do get passed on. The changes that occur can become “stuck” on a gene and be passed through your genetic lineage for generations.
This was seen in the Netherlands during World War II. A genetic syndrome that came to be known as Dutch Hunger Winter Syndrome came into being when pregnant mothers experienced famine during the war. Many infants born to these mothers had an increased risk of metabolic disease later in life. A particular gene was shown to have undergone different DNA methylation than those of brothers or sisters who had not been exposed to famine. The genetic change remained six decades later.
Another instance involves a study of identical twins. The epigenetics of identical twins are virtually indistinguishable between them at birth. But as the twins of this study grew up, vast differences in their methyl groups and histones were recorded. This affected how their genes expressed themselves, and accounted for the differences in their health.
The Benefits of Understanding Epigenetics
Up to this point, the thought of epigenetics may sound a little scary. But knowing that a person’s worst habits or environmental situation can affect future generations actually gives us another valuable tool to put in the medical science kit. And the potential for good is thrilling. Epigenetics is still a very new field of study. But there is a great deal to be excited about.
Among the potentials of understanding epigenetics are:
- The Way We Treat Disease
A changed epigenome can cause a flaw in a gene that acts like a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Remember the analogy earlier in this article, likening epigenomes to conductors of orchestras? If a musical conductor doesn’t conduct the orchestral members properly, the music can come out wrong.
So the risk of diseases and disorders is potentially increased when the epigenetics of DNA are adversely affected. The genes beneath the damaged epigenome may be perfectly normal. Yet the damage to the epigenetic material can lead to cancer, autoimmune conditions, and genetic syndromes.
Understanding what makes those epigenetic errors happen can help medical science develop technology, methods, and advanced therapies like stem cell therapy. All of this, and more, opens whole worlds of potential for treatments of diseases that have challenged humankind all through the ages.
- The Way We Treat Addiction
Epigenetics may well solve the riddle as to why some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. We already know there is no single “addiction gene.” The dilemma of addiction is comprised of a variety of inherited and environmental factors. But scientists have now discovered that epigenetic mechanisms have a great influence on addiction and non-addiction. They influence how genes are expressed and how the inclination to an addictive nature can be inherited by the generations to come.
That’s why epigenetics is so exciting to researchers specializing in addiction. Unlocking the secrets of the epigenome may very well alter the future course of addiction, perhaps even providing a way to help the patient treat his or her addiction as well as prevent the trait from being passed on to the next generation.
- The Way We Treat Trauma
Among the earliest theories related to epigenetics concerns the effects of how traumatic events may change people’s epigenomes. For example, one study indicated that children of Holocaust survivors literally genetically inherited a precise stress response.
Studies have seen a link between epigenetics and how vulnerable children were to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their births after 9/11. The children of mothers who were directly, traumatically impacted by the event showed lower levels of cortisol. These low levels opened them up to a heightened vulnerability to PTSD.
Though these studies are not conclusive, based on what we know about epigenetics they have added to the evidence. Major traumatic events may well alter a person’s epigenome to the point where the children carry that alteration with them from the womb to the tomb…perhaps even beyond, via the generation that follows them.
If epigenetics proves to be as profound a player in passing along PTSD tendencies as the studies imply, they may very well open up an entirely new and exciting way to address the effects of deep emotional trauma.
- The Way We View Stem Cell Therapy
Regenerative medicine is already an established medical practice in the United States, as well as globally. Today, regenerative medicine methods like stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma therapy are leading a paradigm shift in how the medical community views the future of medicine.
Contemporary stem cell therapy methods for addressing illnesses, injuries, disorders, and chronic conditions are in use in established regenerative medicine facilities that strictly adhere to FDA guidelines. FDA guidelines-compliant stem cell therapy uses in practice today include those for:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Back Pain/Injury
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
- Joint Pain/Injury
- Kidney Conditions
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Spinal Cord Injury
Epigenetics appears as though they will profoundly boost what we already know about the effectiveness of stem cell therapy. It may very well help in the expansion of types of therapies for conditions that have perplexed humankind for thousands of years, such as dementia.
New, But Exciting in Its Potential
Epigenetics is still a very young field of study. Research will have to continue for awhile yet before anything becomes conclusive. Presently, studies imply that the impact of epigenetics appears to come from the maternal side of a child…for now. Some researchers believe it will yet be discovered that fathers may also pass down epigenetic information to their children.
The full impact of the influence of epigenetics on inherited mental or physical health is still unknown. But currently there is evidence that the epigenetics of an infant might be able to be influenced –whether positively or negatively- even after birth. Presently, most of the research being done is being performed with animals. There is even a study showing that the pups of very attentive mother rats were happier than the pups of mothers who were inattentive.
Can epigenetics influence our potential for happiness?
Researchers found a discrepancy in the methylation levels of rat pups with attentive mothers and those with inattentive mothers. The gene controlling the stress response of rat pups was expressed quite differently between the groups. One of the most fascinating parts of the study involves the adoption of the less happy rat pups by the more attentive rat mothers. The pups grew up happier. This implies that the methylation discrepancies aren’t necessarily permanent and may be able to be altered even after birth.
Until most of the research progresses into human testing, the full impact will remain uncertain. But will this fascinating field of study one day establish that how healthy we eat, how well we exercise, or how much alcohol or drugs we ingest profoundly affects the very genes of our children and grandchildren?
As study and research on epigenetics continues to progress, we may well discover effective treatments for cancer, dementia, PTSD, and more. And with epigenetics having such an apparently significant link to stem cell therapy, the future of regenerative medicine appears to be a major factor in the future of medicine in general.
Stem Cell Therapy Today
Though today’s stem cell therapy methods are safe, effective, and use adult stem cells –very often as outpatient procedures- it is important for people interested in stem cell therapy to remember that it is a practice that must be done by licensed medical professionals.
The National Stem Cell Institute strongly urges you to thoroughly research any regenerative medicine facilities you are considering for therapy. Below are tips and information to help you in your search.
What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic
When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons, and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves and spinal cord.
Unfortunately, the majority of so-called “regenerative medicine clinics” in the world aren’t trained in the latest, most technologically advanced procedures and will, therefore, provide poor results if any.
The good news is the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) has established the most advanced stem cell and platelet rich plasma procedures on the planet which has drawn patients from all over the world as well as professional athletes and celebrities because they are recognized as the best in the world at stem cell therapy.
What makes NSI Stem Cell the top stem cell clinic in the world is demonstrated in 5 key areas:
1. Highly trained and experienced, board-certified doctors and team members who have performed stem cell procedures on thousands of patients with incredible results.
2. Cutting edge procedures utilizing all that regenerative medicine has to offer for many chronic degenerative conditions.
3. Leading scientific researchers who follow the advanced guidelines to maximize the healing potential of your stem cells and to maintain compliance and ethics
4. Use of only the most potent and viable resource of living, viable stem cells and harvested on the same day. No vial that you can purchase will contain living stem cells. If there is no harvest then there are no stem cells.
5. Post-operative guidance for supporting stem-cell growth including rehabilitation, diet and supplement protocols. NSI is a full-service healthcare center focused on patient outcomes. Stem cell therapy is only one tool used to help improve patients’ lives.
Patients have raved about their experience at NSI Stem Cell Clinics testifying that it was their unique cutting-edge procedures that helped them experience a breakthrough when nothing else worked.
If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics, you can set up a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.