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Mol Biol Rep. 2015 Apr;42(4):765-76. doi: 10.1007/s11033-014-3727-z. Epub 2014 Sep 10.

Epigenetics in the development, modification, and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Gill Heart Institute, University of Kentucky, 326 Wethington Building, 900 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY, 40536-0200, USA,


Epigenetics has major relevance to all disease processes; cardiovascular (CV) disease and its related conditions are no exception. Epigenetics is defined as the study of heritable alterations in gene expression, or cellular phenotype, and goes far beyond a pure genetic approach. A more precise definition is that epigenetics represents all the meiotically and mitotically inherited changes in gene expression that are not encoded on the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence itself. Major epigenetic mechanisms are modifications of histone proteins in chromatin and DNA methylation (which does not alter the DNA sequence). There is increasing evidence for the involvement of epigenetics in human disease such as cancer, inflammatory disease and CV disease. Other chronic diseases are also susceptible to epigenetic modification such as metabolic diseases including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes mellitus. There is much evidence for the modification of epigenetics by nutrition and exercise. Through these modifications, there is infinite potential for benefit for the fetus, the newborn, and the individual as well as population effects. Association with CV disease, including coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, is evident through epigenetic relationships and modification by major CV risk factors such as tobacco abuse. Aging itself may be altered by epigenetic modification. Knowledge of epigenetics and its relevance to the development, modification, and prevention of CV disease is in a very preliminary stage but has an infinite future.

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