New evidence of formaldehyde in cancer: how it interferes with the chemical mechanisms that control the activity of our genes

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An international team of researchers has discovered that formaldehydea widespread contaminant and common metabolite in our body, interferes with the epigenetic programming of the cell. This finding expands knowledge about formaldehyde, which until now was only considered a DNA mutagen, and helps establish a new link between this and the cancer.

Lucas Pontel, group leader of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute, and Manel Esteller, group leader and director of the same institution, sign the study as collaborating authors, which has been published in the journal Science.

The epigenetics, which are the chemical mechanisms that control the activity of genes, allow our cells, tissues and organs to adapt to the changing circumstances of the environment around us. However, this advantage can also be a drawback, since this epigenetic regulation can be altered more easily by toxins than the most stable genetic sequence of DNA.

The article demonstrates that the substance called formaldehyde, commonly present in various household products and cosmetics, in polluted air and widely used in construction, is a powerful modifier of normal epigenetic patterns.

The publication is directed by Christopher J. Chang, from the University of California Berkeley (USA), whose research group is a pioneer in the study of the effects of various chemicals on cellular metabolism. The research has focused on studying the effects of high concentrations of formaldehyde on the bodya substance that has already been associated with an increased risk of developing cancer (nasopharyngeal tumors and leukemia), liver degeneration due to fatty liver (steatosis) and asthma.

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