Diet, stress, and home life are all factors that affect gene expression. Epigenetics, the study of how gene expression affects our cells and tissues, has been used to study early signs of diseases such as breast and cervical cancer, but now researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a tool to assess gene expression and its effects in children.
This “molecular” clock (more specifically called the Pediatric-Buccal-Epigenetic clock) monitors the chemical units that affect gene expression, which can be altered by a variety of environmental factors. This allows doctors to analyze development milestones and assess why some children may not be meeting them. Researchers say it can even detect early signs of developmental disorders such as Autism.
According to lead researcher Dr. Lisa McEwen, “this powerful and easy-to-use tool” would “enable doctors and pediatricians to intervene sooner in a child’s life leading to better outcomes for kids.”