Behaviors such as overeating and drinking from adolescence onwards can have serious and lasting adverse effects on the brain, altering the genetic chemistry of the brain, making it more susceptible to depression and alcoholism in adulthood.
In a new study, scientists have found that altered brain genes can be reversed back to “factory settings” through gene editing.
Arc gene plays a very important role in the process of brain learning and memory, and it has the effects of activity regulation, localization, and brain plasticity changes. The dysfunction caused by Arc protein is also considered to be an important factor in clarifying neurological diseases, including amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and so on.
According to past research by the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), behaviors such as alcohol abuse and overeating during adolescence can alter brain chemistry in areas where the Arc gene is enhanced, and reduce the expression of Arc proteins in the amygdala of rodents and humans, further leading to These people are more likely to develop anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder (alcohol use disorder) as adults.
Fortunately, the team’s latest research shows that this permanently reprogrammed genetic chemistry can be reversed through gene editing.
Altering the Arc Gene
The researchers used CRISPR-dCas9 gene editing technology in the experiment to manipulate the tissue protein acetylation and methylation process of the Arc gene in adult rats. First, the adult rats were exposed to alcohol during adolescence (equivalent to human age 10 to 18 years old), It was found that when acetylation, a process that relaxes chromatin and allows transcription factors to bind to DNA, is promoted with dCas9 technology, Arc gene expression tends to normalize and anxiety symptoms and alcohol consumption decrease.
In a second experiment, the researchers studied alcohol-naive rats during adolescence. When dCas9 technology boosted methylation, which tightens chromatin and prevents transcription factors from binding to DNA, Arc protein expression decreased and anxiety was reduced. and alcohol consumption increased.
The experimental results suggest that editing the epigenome in the amygdala may be effective in ameliorating adult psychopathology caused by teenage alcoholism. Gene editing is like an “antidote” that restores factory settings to specific injured areas of the brain if you wish.
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