The genetic information contained in the DNA of our cells is used to build our organism and develop the characteristic functions of life. Until now it was believed that all the necessary information was encoded only in the nucleotide sequences that make up our genes: the reading order of the four ATCG bases of the genetic code. But today we know that there is something more. There are chemical modifications that, without altering said sequence, control its activity: they are something like molecular labels that determine when genes are activated or not. epigenetics is
the part of biology that studies these modifications of DNA and the proteins associated with it. External factors such as diet or pollution influence these epigenetic modifications and alterations in them can cause diseases.
Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms involved in the regulation of these molecular marks. In this debate we will have four Ibero-American scientists who are experts in this field, who will inform us about the latest advances in the study of epigenetics.
Epigenetics is a phenomenon of heritable changes in the chromatin structure of a genomic region, resulting in a transcriptional silent or active state of the region over cell mitosis. Mounting evidence has demonstrated phenotypic consequence of alternations in the patterns of DNA methylation and histone modifications, two of the well-studied epigenetic mechanisms. The epigenome thus represents an interesting therapeutic target.
Chinese medicine (CM) has contributed to human health care for several thousand years and is still popular in Asian countries, but the mechanisms underlying CM remain obscure, and need to be clarifified by modern biological subjects and methods. Recently, CM researches on epigenetics have gained obvious improvement following rapidly developed molecular technologies. In this review, we revealed mutual characteristics of epigenetics and CM, such as holism, yin-yang dynamic nature, reversibility and balance, and visceral manifestation. Moreover, epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation, histone post-transcriptional modifications, micro RNA interference, etc, may help explore the molecular basis of CM syndrome classifification, and mechanisms of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM), CHM compounds and Chinese herbal formulae activities.
Meanwhile, CM and epigenetics might promote each other and jointly develop following the continuous progress of epigenetics in CM researches.