Posts Tagged ‘genetics’

Does your Place of Residence influence your Immune System?

Friday, October 7th, 2016

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In a recent issue of Trends in Immunology researchers concluded where and with whom we live account for 60 to 80 per cent of the differences between individual immune systems, while genetics account for the rest. Like fingerprints, immune systems vary from person to person and despite our unique set of genes that help us respond to infections our diet, quality of air, food, stress levels, sleep patterns and lifestyle choices have a stronger effect on our immune system. The researchers said “Just like it took a while to crack the genetic code, we’re finally starting to crack the immune code, and we’re shifting away from the simplistic idea that there is only one type of immune system. diversity isn’t just programmed into our genes–it emerges from how our genes respond to their environment.”

They say that long-term infections are responsible for most of the differences between individual immune systems and use the example of herpes or shingles. In these processes the virus has more opportunity to interact with the immune system and these interactions slowly change the cellular makeup of the immune system and make it more sensitive to that specific virus but also easier for other infections to move past its defenses. People who do not have these infections don’t experience cellular changes, and even with the occasional cold or fever, their immune system stays relatively stable over time.

The exception is an elderly person when our immune system reacts differently to threats. This is related partially to the thymus organ that gradually stops producing T cells, which are made to fight infections. Without these cells, older people are more likely to get sick and less likely to respond to vaccines. In addition, to the lack of T cells there seems to be other changes in the way the immune system reacts. For example, the researchers say “A lot of diseases we associate with aging have an inflammatory component, which suggests there is likely immune involvement.”  The further say differences can be overcome and studies of people living together show that air-quality, fod, stress level, sleep patterns, and lifestyle choices had a strrong combined effect on immune responses and couples who cohabitate had more similar immune systems compared with the general public.  Researchers now plan to study how changing the envorinbment could purposefully shape our immune system and potentially effect our health.

Can A Healthy Lifestyle Reduce Risk for High Risk Breast Cancer Patients.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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A new study published in May, 2016 in JAMA Oncology  concluded that women with a high risk of developing breast cancer based upon family history and genetic risk can reduce the chances of developing the disease by following a healthy lifestyle. Researchers developed a model predicting the risk of breast cancer by analyzing records of more than 17,000 women with breast cancer and nearly 20,000 women without the disease and another 6,000 women from another study group. Individual-level data on risk such as age, weight, smoking status, and  factors on almost 100 common gene variations, each of which are known to have a modest association with breast cancer but in combination they can lead to substantial elevated risk. The common gene variations in the study were quite different from the well known rare mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 where having a single variant can mean a very high risk of developing cancer.

They found that roughly 30 percent of breast cancer cases could be prevented by modifying known risk factors such as drinking less alcohol, losing weight and not taking hormone replacement therapy. They also found that a large fraction of the total preventable cases would occur among women at higher levels because of genetic risk factors, family history and a few other factors that cannot be modified. They found that white women who are at high risk but who had a low body index mass index, who did not drink or smoke, and who did not use hormone replacement therapy, had about the same risk as an average white woman in the United States and that the average chance that a 30 year old white woman will develop breast cancer before age 80 is about 11 percent. Researchers said “People think that their genetic risk for developing cancer is set in stone,. While you can’t change your genes, this study tells us even people who are at high genetic risk can change their health outlook by making better lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercises, and quitting smoking.”

This study is a first step in understanding how advances in the field of genetics can be used to develop preventive strategies to help women improve their odds of avoiding breast cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

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