Relaxation Practices Affect Gene Expression

Particularly affect genes involved in oxidative stress

THURSDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Practices such as meditation, prayer and yoga that elicit the relaxation response affect gene expression, particularly genes involved in oxidative stress, even in short-term practitioners, researchers report in the July issue of PLoS ONE.

Jeffery A. Dusek, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined gene expression in whole blood from 19 healthy long-term practitioners of the relaxation response, 19 healthy controls, and 20 healthy individuals who underwent eight weeks of training in the relaxation response.

The researchers found that 2,209 genes were differentially expressed among long-term practitioners of relaxation and healthy controls, and 1,561 genes were differentially expressed among those who underwent relaxation training and healthy controls. Long-term and short-term practitioners of relaxation shared 433 differentially expressed genes. The affected genes were involved in cellular metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation, generation of reactive oxygen species, and response to oxidative stress. Many of the results were confirmed in an independent set of individuals.

"This study provides the first compelling evidence that the relaxation response elicits specific gene expression changes in short-term and long-term practitioners," Dusek and colleagues conclude. "Our results suggest consistent and constitutive changes in gene expression resulting from relaxation response may relate to long-term physiological effects."

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