Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What is a SNP?

A SNP (pronounced "snip") is a single nucleotide polymorphism, or a genetic mutation involving just one unit of the DNA sequence. SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation among people. There are about 10 million SNPs in the human genome.

Certain SNPs have been identified that affect the enzymes that are critical to the body's detoxification processes. Central to detoxification in the body are two chemical reactions: methylation and sulfation. Methylation is the transfer of a methyl group – a carbon atom linked to 3 hydrogen atoms (CH3) – from one molecule to another. It occurs billions of times per second and is the means by which the body repairs its DNA, controls homocysteine levels, and recycles molecules necessary to detoxification. Sulfation is the process by which sulfate groups are attached to chemicals called phenols to enable their elimination. When phenolic compounds build up in the body due to an impaired ability to handle them, neurotransmitter function is diminished. Effects include impaired detoxification of heavy metals and environmental toxins, diminished digestive enzymes, limited levels of a hormone that regulates socialization, and leaky gut. Sulfation also produces glutathione, a critical antioxidant.

Methylation and sulfation processes are driven by enzymatic activity. Certain SNPs have been identified that either reduce or upregulate the activity of particular enzymes related to methylation and sulfation, thus compromising an individual's methylation and sulfation capacity. We are interested in these SNPs in part because they may make an individual more vulnerable to environmental toxins and toxicants, and certain nutrient deficiencies. All individuals – healthy or not – can benefit from practices that regulate enzymatic activity to support methylation and sulfation processes.

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