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Circ Res. 2016 Jan 8;118(1):119-131. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.305206. Epub 2016 Jan 7.

The Role of DNA Methylation in Cardiovascular Risk and Disease: Methodological Aspects, Study Design, and Data Analysis for Epidemiological Studies.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Contributed equally

Erratum in


Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that genetic, environmental, behavioral, and clinical factors contribute to cardiovascular disease development. How these risk factors interact at the cellular level to cause cardiovascular disease is not well known. Epigenetic epidemiology enables researchers to explore critical links between genomic coding, modifiable exposures, and manifestation of disease phenotype. One epigenetic link, DNA methylation, is potentially an important mechanism underlying these associations. In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of epidemiological studies investigating cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes in relation to DNA methylation, but many gaps remain in our understanding of the underlying cause and biological implications. In this review, we provide a brief overview of the biology and mechanisms of DNA methylation and its role in cardiovascular disease. In addition, we summarize the current evidence base in epigenetic epidemiology studies relevant to cardiovascular health and disease and discuss the limitations, challenges, and future directions of the field. Finally, we provide guidelines for well-designed epigenetic epidemiology studies, with particular focus on methodological aspects, study design, and analytical challenges.


5-methylcytosine; DNA methylation; cardiovascular diseases; epidemiology; risk factors

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