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Mutagenesis. 2011 Jan;26(1):57-62. doi: 10.1093/mutage/geq081.

Association of chromosome damage detected as micronuclei with hematological diseases and micronutrient status.

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Nutrition and Metabolism Center, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, 5700 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609, USA.


Epidemiological studies reveal strong association between micronutrient deficiencies and development of cancer. Since chromosome breaks and abnormal chromosome segregation, identified as micronuclei (MN), are central to malignant transformation, the influence of micronutrient status upon MN frequency has been the subject of intense research. Motivating this effort is the idea that marginal micronutrient deficiencies lead to allocation of scarce cellular resources towards immediate survival at the expense of maintaining genomic integrity, placing the individual at greater risk for degenerative diseases and cancer in old age. The challenge in identifying an association between individual micronutrients and MN frequency stems from the complexity of human diet, simultaneous presence of multiple micronutrient deficiencies, variable genetic susceptibility and methodological difficulties. A unique model for studying MN in humans is provided by a group of haematological diseases, the chronic haemolytic anaemias associated with high reticulocyte count and absence of splenic function. These disorders may prove valuable for assessing the influence of micronutrient status once the effect of abnormal erythropoiesis on MN formation is adequately understood. Eventually, large population-based studies that can account for the baseline variability in MN frequency, lifestyle and genetic factors may be needed to uncover the DNA-damaging effect of poor diet. Understanding the link between micronutrient status and MN frequency will contribute towards determining optimal micronutrient intake to preserve long-term health.

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