Epigenetics and Insurtech Roundup 4-20-2018:

Japanese University study finds that enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics

 This is why people in Minnesota have thick skin! In all seriousness, what science is saying is further proof that your environment alters your genetic expression.  The body of scientific evidence continues to build. 

DNA Methylation and forensic investigations

 When I first met Dr. Horvath, he thought that epigenetic clock could be useful to estimate the age of a victim or a perpetrator.  This is exciting to see that criminology is looking to this very use of epigentics to help continue solving crime.

Exercise may offset drinking’s epigenetics effect on the brain

 Look, exercise is just good for you…. period, full stop.  I almost hate reproducing these reports, but its interesting to see all the nuanced discoveries, and hopefully people can motivate to get off the couch! I know, its hard for me to some days. 

More from Josh Mitteldorf on Horvath’s Clock and other assessments of aging

Josh Mitteldorf maintains an excellent blog on the science of aging: Playing The Game for a Longer Life.   One of  Josh’s favorite topics, and mine too for that matter, is reporting on the work of Dr. Steve Horvath at UCLA.  Josh is a consummate study of the work on epigenetics and aging. As a result has some very interesting insights and hypothesis on the role of molecular biology and aging.  If you read Josh’s Blog, you will find detailed conversations on the role of molecular aging and a vibrant debate among many learned professionals on the subject.  Personally, I find Josh’s hypothesis on molecular biology and aging to be fascinating and intuitively correct (while not scientifically verified). 

Insurtech industry concerned about lack of digital skills coming out of insurance industry

 Well this does not say too much about anything, it is a constant reminder of the slow drum beat within the insurance industry on the change afoot, but the molasses like approach and movement – whether that be for lack of digital skills or motivated action to change within the industry itself.  Also, Early Metrics has an interesting concept to rate startup ecosystems.  I will reach out and see what they are studying and if epigenetics is on their radar.

Aging found to impact cancer in positive and negative ways

A paper published in Cell discusses how epigenetics will likely pave the way to the discovery of biomarker signatures for the early detection of cancers. The new science of epigenetics has enabled us to track, how our lifestyle and surroundings affect the behavior of genes in our body, without altering the underlying DNA sequence (commonly called ‘mutations’). These epigenetic changes may stop aged cells and damaged cells from forming any new cells–akin to forced retirement, scientifically known as senescence, thereby preventing chances of cancer. However, unusual epigenetic changes might help rogue cells to escape senescence and steer towards formation of tumors.  Now, to be able to predict aging-related cancer risks, researchers are trying to identify those genes which undergo the most epigenetic changes during normal aging and in early tumor development.

Genetic disease risk screening is becoming a popular employee benefit. But the tests may not be all that beneficial for the general population, experts say.

Most people want to know! Levi Strauss & Company introduced a novel benefit for employees at its San Francisco headquarters last fall: free genetic screening to assess their hereditary risks for certain cancers and high cholesterol. Chip Bergh, Levi’s chief executive, said he had hoped that the tests would spur employees to take preventive health steps and in that way reduce the company’s health care costs. But even Mr. Bergh was surprised by the turnout. Of the 1,100 eligible Levi’s employees, more than half took the genetic tests. Now, he wants to extend the benefit to employees in other cities.