Mind-Body Medicine and Functional Genomics

In the latest issue of The Ochsner Journal, a team of researchers explores the genetic impact of mind-body medicine or mind-body therapies (MBTs). Practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises are used throughout the world to prevent and treat disease and promote health, but the mechanisms by which these therapies produce beneficial effects are poorly understood. Nevertheless, in a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, nearly 1 in 5 Americans reported using MBTs.

Authors Halsey Niles, Dr. Darshan H. Mehta, Alexandra A. Corrigan, Manoj K. Bhasin, and Dr. John W. Denningerall with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Bostonreviewed 15 trials that measured global or targeted transcriptomic, epigenomic, or proteomic changes in peripheral blood.

As reported in Functional Genomics in the Study of Mind-Body Therapies, they found that although the reliability of individual genes from trial to trial was often inconsistent, genes related to inflammatory response, particularly those involved in the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) pathway, were consistently downregulated across most studies. Overall, the researchers concluded that in general, trials focusing on gene expression changes brought about by MBTs have revealed intriguing connections to the immune system (through the NF-κB cascade), to telomere maintenance, and to apoptotic regulation. However, these findings are limited to a small number of trials and relatively small sample sizes. To advance future research, the authors suggest more rigorous randomized controlled trials enrolling healthy subjects and patients with specific disease states, as well as investigations into functional genomics areas both upstream and downstream of MBT-related gene expression changes—from epigenomics to proteomics to metabolomics.

Read the article here.

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