Mind-body therapies (MBTs) are used throughout the world in treatment, disease prevention, and health promotion. However, the mechanisms by which MBTs exert their positive effects are not well understood. Investigations into MBTs using functional genomics have revolutionized the understanding of MBT mechanisms and their effects on human physiology.
We searched the literature for the effects of MBTs on functional genomics determinants using MEDLINE, supplemented by a manual search of additional journals and a reference list review.
We reviewed 15 trials that measured global or targeted transcriptomic, epigenomic, or proteomic changes in peripheral blood. Sample sizes ranged from small pilot studies (n=2) to large trials (n=500). While the reliability of individual genes from trial to trial was often inconsistent, genes related to inflammatory response, particularly those involved in the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) pathway, were consistently downregulated across most studies.
In general, existing trials focusing on gene expression changes brought about by MBTs have revealed intriguing connections to the immune system through the NF-κB cascade, to telomere maintenance, and to apoptotic regulation. However, these findings are limited to a small number of trials and relatively small sample sizes. More rigorous randomized controlled trials of healthy subjects and specific disease states are warranted. Future research should investigate functional genomics areas both upstream and downstream of MBT-related gene expression changes-from epigenomics to proteomics and metabolomics.