Researchers are identifying important epigenetic markers in vulnerability to the development of food dependence

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A team of researchers has identified common epigenetic mechanisms associated with food dependence in rodents and humans. The article, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was led by Rafael Maldonado and Elena Martín, from the Neuropharmacology-Neurophar research group at Pompeu Fabra University, affiliated with the Hospital de la Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), and José Manuel Fernández-Real, from The Nutrition, Eumetabolism and Health Group of the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) Josep Trueta and CIBEROBN.

Food addiction is related to uncontrolled intake associated with obesity and eating disorders. It is a complex, chronic, multifactorial brain disease caused by the interaction between several genes and environmental factors. Its prevalence is increasing worldwide and there are no effective treatments.

In an earlier paper, the researchers identified the neurobiological mechanisms that allow the development of food addiction behaviors. Specifically, they identified the involvement of certain cortical areas in the brain in the loss of control over food intake.

“After identifying the mechanism, we ask ourselves why some individuals are resistant while others are addicted. To do so, we focus on epigenetic factors, that is, external or environmental factors that modify gene expression,” explains Elena Martín.

The researchers selected extreme populations of rodents that were dependent and not dependent on food. They specifically looked for epigenetic markers in areas of the cerebral cortex related to this addiction. Among the various epigenetic mechanisms that exist, in this case, they focused on microRNAs; small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression in a complex and dynamic way.

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They also examined circulating microRNAs in healthy volunteers, and a questionnaire was administered that provided an instrument to measure the degree of dependence on food. “The most fascinating finding was that the same microRNAs that were affected in the mouse brain were also altered in human plasma. Interestingly, the same microRNAs were associated with the degree of food dependence quantified using this questionnaire, “explains José Manuel Fernández- Married.

Bru Cormand and Noèlia Fernàndez, from the University of Barcelona, ​​the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Barcelona (IBUB), the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute (IRSJD) and CIBERER explain that “the most important identified microRNAs are involved in processes, which are relevant to food addiction, such as lipid and carbohydrate digestion, morphological changes in the brain, insulin resistance or even addiction to certain substances such as methamphetamine. “

Within this multifactorial disease with multiple expressions, they have identified two main components of behavior change: high motivation to get food and compulsive searching despite the negative effects of such behavior. “Interestingly, we have seen that two specific epigenetic changes appear to be responsible for these behavioral characteristics of the disease,” points out Rafael Maldonado. “The similarities between mice and human outcomes add significant translational value to the study. The role of epigenetics in vulnerability to food dependence opens the door to identify biomarkers for the early diagnosis of the disease and the search for future therapies by modifying the expression of miRNAs,” he concludes.

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Neurobiological mechanisms involved in the loss of control in a study in mice revealed More information: Alejandra García-Blanco et al, MicroRNAs signatures associated with vulnerability to food dependence in mice and humans, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2022). DOI: 10.1172 / JCI156281

Provided by Universitat Pompeu Fabra – Barcelona

Quote: Researchers Identify Important Epigenetic Markers in Vulnerability to Food Addiction Development (2022, May 9) Retrieved May 9, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-key-epigenetic-markers-vulnerability-food .html

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