DNA Methylation in Complex Disease: Applications in Nursing Research, Practice and Policy

DNA methylation is an epigenomic modification that is essential to normal human development and biological processes. DNA methylation patterns are heritable and dynamic throughout the life span. Environmental exposures can alter DNA methylation patterns, contributing to the development of complex disease. Identification and modulation of environmental factors influencing disease susceptibility through alterations in DNA methylation are amenable to nursing intervention and form the basis for individualized patient care. Here we describe the evidence supporting the translation of DNA methylation analyses as a tool for screening, diagnosis, and treatment of complex disease in nursing research and practice. The ethical, legal, social, and economic considerations of advances in genomics are considered as a model for epigenomic policy. We conclude that contemporary and informed nurse scientists and clinicians are uniquely poised to apply innovations in epigenomic research to clinical populations and develop appropriate policies that guide equitable and ethical use of new strategies to improve patient care.