Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Evidence for an influence of meditation on immune-related pathways?

I pass on the abstract, below, and also the entire text of a study by Chaix et al.:


• We explored the methylome of trained meditators vs untrained controls in PBMCs. 
• No significant basal difference in methylation profiles was observed between groups. 
• Meditators showed 61 Differentially Methylated Sites after a meditation practice day. 
• These DMS were enriched in genes associated with immune cell processes and ageing. 
• Controls showed no significant DMS after a leisure-based control intervention. 
The human methylome is dynamically influenced by psychological stress. However, its responsiveness to stress management remains underexplored. Meditation practice has been shown to significantly reduce stress level, among other beneficial neurophysiological outcomes. Here, we evaluated the impact of a day of intensive meditation practice (t2−t1 = 8 h) on the methylome of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in experienced meditators (n = 17). In parallel, we assessed the influence of a day of leisure activities in the same environment on the methylome of matched control subjects with no meditation experience (n = 17). DNA methylation profiles were analyzed using the Illumina 450 K beadchip array. We fitted for each methylation site a linear model for multi-level experiments which adjusts the variation between t1 and t2 for baseline differences. No significant baseline differences in methylation profiles was detected between groups. In the meditation group, we identified 61 differentially methylated sites (DMS) after the intervention. These DMS were enriched in genes mostly associated with immune cell metabolism and ageing and in binding sites for several transcription factors involved in immune response and inflammation, among other functions. In the control group, no significant change in methylation level was observed after the day of leisure activities. These results suggest that a short meditation intervention in trained subjects may rapidly influence the epigenome at sites of potential relevance for immune function and provide a better understanding of the dynamics of the human methylome over short time windows.
These are clearly very initial findings that need followup to determine the relationship between the fast epigenetic changes caused by the daylong meditative and previously reported long lasting effects of the practice. There need to be randomized controlled studies with larger sample sizes, active control groups, long-term follow-ups, etc.

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