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Scientists discover exercise alters DNA

Researchers in Denmark, Ireland and Sweden have discovered that exercise can alter your deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in just a few minutes. While the underlying genetic code remains unchanged, the DNA molecules within the muscle cells undergoes chemical and structural changes, ...

Researchers in Denmark, Ireland and Sweden have discovered that exercise can alter your deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in just a few minutes. While the underlying genetic code remains unchanged, the DNA molecules within the muscle cells undergoes chemical and structural changes, in very specific ways. They either gain or lose marks of methyl groups on specific and familiar DNA sequences. Presented in the journal Cell Metabolism, the study was funded in part by the Advanced Grants of the European Research Council's Ideas Programme, under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Led by scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, researchers evaluated how exercise impacts the DNA of healthy albeit inactive people. According to the team, the so-called epigenetic modifications to the DNA, at precise locations, seem to be a key component of the physiological benefits of exercise. 'Our muscles are really plastic,' explains Professor Juleen Zierath from the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. 'We often say "You are what you eat". Well, muscle adapts to what you do. If you don't use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allow that to happen.' The findings indicate that the DNA within skeletal muscle taken from people after they exercised for a short period time has fewer methyl groups than it did before exercise. The alterations also surface in DNA areas that act as landing sites for various enzymes, what experts call transcription factors. These transcription factors play a role in stimulating genes that are instrumental in muscles' adaptation to exercise. Professor Zierath points out that transcription factors are like keys that unlock a body's genes. When methyl groups are firmly in place, these 'keys' cannot enter the DNA 'locks'. Things change when the methyl groups are not in place, enabling the keys to turn the locks and increase the muscles' capacity for work. 'Exercise is already known to induce changes in muscle, including increased metabolism of sugar and fat,' Professor Zierath says. 'Our discovery is that the methylation change comes first.' The team contracted muscles in laboratory dishes. They discovered a loss of methyl groups here. The researchers also exposed the muscles to caffeine, finding the same effect, as caffeine triggers the release of calcium in a way that mimics the muscle contraction that results with exercise. But it should be noted that the team does not recommend people drink coffee to replace exercise, because there is no clear evidence that caffeine delivers all the beneficial effects that exercise has. 'Exercise is medicine, and it seems the means to alter our epigenomes for better health may be only a jog away,' Professor Zierath noted. Experts from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Dublin City University in Ireland contributed to this study.For more information, please visit: Karolinska Institutet:http://ki.se/ki/jsp/polopoly.jsp;jsessionid=amZpOZ-R0uw7wJ6tey?l=en&d=130Cell Metabolism:http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/home

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Denmark, Ireland, Sweden