Exercise can make over muscles — even at the DNA level.
Following an intense workout, certain chemical alterations to DNA appear in a person’s muscle cells, researchers report in the March 7 Cell Metabolism. These alterations turn on genes that regulate a cell’s energy.
This work helps clarify the mechanism by which exercise benefits cells. And it raises questions about whether the benefits of an active lifestyle are passed from parent to child, says study coauthor Romain Barrès of the University of Copenhagen. “Do we carry some consequence of whether our parents were active or not?” Barrès asks.
Genes can be turned on or off by a process known as methylation, in which a methyl group — consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms — is added to DNA. This chemical tag can turn genes on or off, modifying the production of blueprints for making proteins.
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