The Fluctuating Nature of Epigenetic Changes

The Fluctuating Nature of Epigenetic Changes

Genetic codes play a crucial role in determining how our cells produce the proteins necessary for our survival. However, recent research has shown that small modifications, known as ‘genetic switches,’ can impact the way our cells interpret these instructions without altering the genetic code itself. These epigenetic changes are often used to estimate the biological age of our cells and tissues.

A team of researchers in Lithuania conducted a study to investigate the fluctuations in epigenetic changes throughout the day. They collected multiple blood samples from a 52-year-old man every three hours over a span of 72 hours. The researchers focused on 17 different epigenetic clocks within the white cells in each specimen. Surprisingly, they found that 13 out of the 17 epigenetic clocks exhibited significant differences throughout the day. The cells appeared ‘younger’ in the early morning hours and ‘older’ around midday, with differences equivalent to approximately 5.5 years of changes.

The findings of this study have significant implications for aging research. The majority of studies that utilize epigenetic clocks rely on single tissue samples, typically whole blood. However, the research conducted by the Lithuanian team suggests that white blood cell subtype counts and proportions oscillate on a 24-hour cycle. This means that a single epigenetic test at a specific time of day may not provide an accurate representation of the individual’s age.

To obtain a more comprehensive understanding of cellular aging, scientists may need to consider conducting multiple samples at various times of the day. While the study focused on a single individual’s samples for in-depth analysis, further research on a small group over a five-hour period revealed age fluctuations as well. These fluctuations could be attributed to the presence of different types of white blood cells in our blood at different times. However, even when researchers focused on a single type of white blood cell, age fluctuations persisted.

The research conducted by the Lithuanian team sheds light on the dynamic nature of epigenetic changes throughout the day. The findings suggest that to accurately determine the age of our cells, multiple samples taken at different times may be necessary. This approach could lead to more precise predictions about the risk of age-related diseases in populations. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of epigenetics, further research is essential to fully understand the implications of these findings on our overall health and well-being.


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