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DNA methylation may be associated with health inequalities

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e722 (Published 31 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e722
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

A study carried out among people living in deprived parts of Glasgow has found that they may have been imprinted at a few weeks after conception with a biological change that leads to ill health in later life.

The finding has been described as “significant” by the research team, which believes that it may help to explain some of the unanswered questions about health inequalities in the city and elsewhere.

The research focused on DNA methylation, the signalling tool that cells use to control gene expression and that is a crucial part of normal development (International Journal of Epidemiology doi:10.1093/ije/dyr215). Most DNA methylation is fixed for life from just a few weeks after conception. Lower levels of methylation have been linked to a variety of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The researchers analysed blood samples from 239 people from Glasgow’s most deprived and …

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