Evidence using the MZ twins has revealed that a difference in DNA methylation emerges later in life, suggesting an environmental rather than a genetic basis for the lifelong DNA methylation drift (Fraga et al., 2005).
Thus, it is possible that environmental exposures, which would affect the activity of the methylation machinery, would also lead to behavioral and mental pathologies. Future studies should now address the specific mechanisms responsible for the observed epigenetic drift of MZ twins. Such studies can provide key insight regarding the impact of environment-gene interaction on behavior and vulnerability to disease over the lifespan. In conclusion, it is likely that epigenetic patterns translate or at least contribute to the relationship between the environment and human health (Mathews and Janusek, 2011)
The study of epigenetic profiles in twins offers an excellent opportunity to understand the causes and consequences of epigenetic variation. The contribution of epigenetic variants to complex phenotypes can be assessed using disease-discordant MZ twins who are otherwise matched for genetics, age, sex, cohort effects, maternal effects and a common environment. These twin designs are considerably more powerful discovery tools than studies on singletons. In the near future, large-scale epigenetic studies in twins across different ages, tissues, and diseases will improve our understanding of the etiology and mechanisms of a wide range of common complex traits and diseases (Bell and Spector, 2011).
However, there are several limitations in regards to the investigation of how MZ twins are phenotypically different from one another. Researchers need to analyze hundreds of identical MZ twin pairs, control the manipulation of the environment, and obtain numerous samples of tissue and or genes at several time points across the lifespan. Additionally, researchers need to look at several generations of MZ twins. All thses limitations may not be feasible in human; therefore, laboratory animals could provide a venue to address complex research questions while controlling confounding variable of the environmental factors as much as possible (Carey, 2011)
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