Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Project Number: 8050-51000-081-08-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: May 1, 2012
End Date: Jul 31, 2015
To investigate the epigenetic modulation in the brains of young and old rats by walnuts, which are known for their nutritional benefits on brain health and aging process. Emerging evidences indicate a direct link between age-associated changes in the DNA methylation pattern and onset of neurodegenerative diseases, and these DNA and genomic modulations are directly affected by the diet. In previous studies from our laboratory, walnuts, known for their rich polyunsaturated fatty acids, have shown improved cognitive, behavioral and motor functions in aged rats. We have also reported that part of these benefits are derived from effects at the molecular level, in critical regions of the brain, including but not limited to the altering effects on the membrane, which could possibly facilitate the movement of certain bioactive components across the membranes. In this context the current study directly measures the effect of walnut bioactive components on genomic DNA methylation and methylation of specific genes.
Rats will initially be purchased and maintained on a diet containing 0, 6% and 9% walnut extracts for about 2 months. Rats will then complete a battery of motor tests as well as cognitive testing in the Morris water maze. Following behavioral testing, areas of the rats’ brains, specific to learning, memory, and motor coordination, such as hippocampus and striatum will be dissected out. The DNA isolated from these specific regions will be analyzed for global genomic DNA methylation and gene specific DNA methylation pattern using LC-MS and microarray techniques.