Putting the Polar Vortex’s deep freeze behind us, we can start looking forward to Spring and all it’s environmental luxuries, like sunshine, blooming flowers…and allergies. Seasonal hayfever is a fact of life for many, but scientists have now developed a way to use DNA methylation in CD4+ T-Cells to predict who’s at risk.
According to Colm Nestor at The Centre for Individualized Medicine (Linköping University) in Sweden, “The story is simple. Hayfever is clearly a CD4+ T-cell associated disease, however researchers have failed to separate patients and healthy controls based on gene expression microarrays of CD4+ T-cells.” Nestor and Co. were able to show that DNAm can be used to detect those with seasonal allergies and that these changes reflect on the altered CD4+ T-Cell population structure that characterizes seasonal allergies. Here’s what went down:
- Genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression profiles of white blood cells (CD4+ T-cells) were generated from people with seasonal allergies and compared to healthy controls.
- Gene expression profiles alone failed to separate patients and controls, just like in many previous studies.
- Interestingly, the DNA methylation profiles were able to very sharply distinguish those with allergies, and even more surprising was that it worked both in and out of the pollen season.
Nestor chimed in that “The ability to so clearly separate patients and controls by DNA methylation profile was very surprising, particularly using DNA from in vivo CD4+ T-cells…This result highlights the potential of quantitative DNA methylation arrays for identifying disease biomarkers.”
“Sample complexity is a major problem for epigenetics researchers. Our work suggests that using quantitative approaches, such as the Infinium 450K methylation array, may allow researchers to differentiate between true epigenetic differences between samples from those caused by subtle changes in cell populations between samples” says Nestor.
See why these findings ain’t nothing to sneeze at in PLOS Genetics, January 2014