26 February 2010

Poverty, stress, death... and genes

Scientists have traced the consequences of the crisis at the molecular levelAlexey Tymoshenko, GZT.RU
Specialists in molecular biology and genetics have managed to find the biological basis of people's resistance to job loss, ruin and other life adversities.

The IL6 gene, which had previously attracted the attention of scientists, was responsible for the long-term effects of stress.

The results of a study by scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles and a number of other scientific centers in the United States are published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists studying the role of interleukin-6 (IL6) in the human response to stress used a combination of various methods: from computer modeling to extensive statistical studies.

Why interleukin?No one doubted that sudden ruin, loss of work or forced relocation are harmful to health.

In addition to the usual life experience, statistics also spoke about this. Therefore, scientists were not interested at all in whether serious stress could cause deterioration of health and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. For doctors, it is much more important to know exactly how the body, faced with unfavorable conditions, begins to develop a disease that can lead to premature death. After all, knowledge of specific mechanisms can also help in the selection of medicines.

Interleukin-6 synthesizes cells of the immune system and plays an important role in the process of inflammation. Along the way, it can accelerate tissue growth during recovery from injuries, and, most importantly, it is also found in vascular smooth muscles and cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells.

Inflammatory processes in the muscles of the vessels and heart are considered by physicians as one of the main factors in the development of atherosclerosis. And from atherosclerosis there is a direct path to such life-threatening phenomena as a heart attack or stroke.

What does it mean?A direct link does not mean that atherosclerosis definitely leads to death from cardiovascular diseases.

For medical researchers, it is important to know only that the connection of atherosclerosis with a heart attack or stroke is proven. It is also known how exactly deposits on the walls of blood vessels lead to the formation of blood clots in the vessels of the brain or heart.

Similarly, smoking may not cause lung cancer in a particular case, but the chain "cigarette smoke – DNA damage – formation of cancer cells" has been traced and scientists have no doubts.

How and where?Usually, a rare variant of a particular gene is responsible for an increased risk of developing a disease.

But in the case of interleukin-6 and the development of cardiovascular diseases many years after stress, everything turned out to be the opposite. In carriers of the most common variant of IL6, the risk of death in 10-12 years after a sharp deterioration in external conditions was maximal. Those who had other, rarer options coped with the adversity that suddenly fell on them better – at least from a medical point of view.

How it looks likeThose who speak English and want to look at biological databases with their own eyes can refer to the list of all diseases associated with IL6 gene variations in the HEFalMp, Human Experimental/Functional Mapper project.

We wrote about this database, created with the active participation of Olga Troyanskaya, in 2009.

As Steven Cole, one of the authors of the study, says, scientists managed to find a specific fragment (a chain of nucleotide pairs) in the IL6 gene, variations in which literally turn off those biochemical reactions that eventually lead to changes detrimental to the whole organism. (UCLA study finds genetic link between misery and death.)

And knowing how the body works at the molecular biological level under prolonged stress, you can think about finding drugs that can help it cope with the problem before it causes serious changes in the cardiovascular system.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru26.02.2010

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