Epigenetics in Psychiatry
Epigenetics is defined as the changes in gene expression that lead to predictable, stable and possibly heritable alterations in cell function that are not due to changes in DNA sequence. It is of major relevance in psychiatry since environmental factors like stress or substance abuse, significant contribute in causing psychiatric pathologies like depression, anxiety, depression, etc.
Epigenetics research in psychiatry would give an opportunity to extend the outlook and approach towards psychiatric pathologies. Hence timely interventions would be sought for. This would also allow gaining access to ‘brain tissue’ from live patients with mental illness and predicting occurrence of or vulnerability to psychiatric illnesses by evaluation of biomarkers, thus preventing, reversing or atleast curbing the progress at an initial stage.
There are evidences of work done in the field of epigenetics both in pre-clinical as well as clinical settings. It is remarkable to see how the DNA methylation at various sites can result in alteration of the mental health of an individual and also how this can affect as early as during the first week of life. This is an exciting frontier in psychiatry, providing long sought biomarkers for predicting complex and devastating human behaviours as well as mental illnesses.