If you think that you’re going to be stuck with your DNA for the rest of your life, think again, because DNA is not immutable as many believe.
A recent study, published in the March issue of Cell Metabolism (a Cell Press publication) has discovered that when healthy but inactive men and women exercise for a matter of minutes, their DNA changes immediately.
One might think: is this a good or a bad thing? General consensus among scientists is that this is a very good thing.
Which means that altering our genomes for better health might be only a jog away.
What’s going on in our DNA when we exercise?
When we exercise, the underlying genetic code in human muscle isn’t changed with exercise, but the DNA molecules within those muscles are chemically and structurally altered in very important ways.
Such modifications to the DNA at specific location appear to be early events in the genetic reprogramming of muscle for strength, ultimately, in the structural and metabolic benefits of exercise.
"Our muscles are really plastic," says Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "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 allows that to happen."
To be a little bit more “scientific” the DNA changes in question are known as epigenetic modifications and involve the gain or loss of chemical marks on DNA over and above the familiar sequence of As, Gs, Ts, and Cs.
The new study shows that the DNA within skeletal muscle taken from people after a burst of exercise bears fewer chemical marks (specifically methyl groups) than it did before exercise. Those changes take place in stretches of DNA that are involved in turning "on" genes important for muscles' adaptation to exercise.
When the researchers made muscles contract in lab dishes, they saw a similar loss of DNA methyl groups.
Generally speaking, the findings of this research offer more evidence that our genomes are much more dynamic than originally thought. Epigenetic modification that turn genes on and back off again can be incredibly flexible events. They allow the DNA in our cells to adjust as the environment shifts.
This means that our genomes adapt pretty fast to changing events, including exercising. Which can be a way to improve our DNA.
Yet again, another reason to hit the gym!
The Iron You