UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A Review of the Epigenetic Clock: Emerging Biomarkers for Asthma and Allergic Disease Vasileva, Denitsa; Greenwood, Celia M. T.; Daley, Denise


DNA methylation (DNAm) is a dynamic, age-dependent epigenetic modification that can be used to study interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Environmental exposures during critical periods of growth and development may alter DNAm patterns, leading to increased susceptibility to diseases such as asthma and allergies. One method to study the role of DNAm is the epigenetic clock—an algorithm that uses DNAm levels at select age-informative Cytosine-phosphate-Guanine (CpG) dinucleotides to predict epigenetic age (EA). The difference between EA and calendar age (CA) is termed epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) and reveals information about the biological capacity of an individual. Associations between EAA and disease susceptibility have been demonstrated for a variety of age-related conditions and, more recently, phenotypes such as asthma and allergic diseases, which often begin in childhood and progress throughout the lifespan. In this review, we explore different epigenetic clocks and how they have been applied, particularly as related to childhood asthma. We delve into how in utero and early life exposures (e.g., smoking, air pollution, maternal BMI) result in methylation changes. Furthermore, we explore the potential for EAA to be used as a biomarker for asthma and allergic diseases and identify areas for further study.

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