Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is Epigenetics Weird or Awesome Science:….Do Our Genes Have a Memory?

ICMS,Inc Educational Series

Posted by Tom Okure, Ph.D
Dated January 30, 2016

Epigenetics Research....Could what you do in your lifetime affect the lives of your grandchildren many decades from now?
The standard scientific view has been that the human DNA transmits all our heritable information and that nothing an individual does in their lifetime will be biologically passed to their children.

Background and Epigenetics Research

Epigenetics evolved as a broad research field in the mid-twentieth century by famous scientists including Conrad H. Waddington and Ernst Hadorn that concentrated on combining genetics and developmental biology. In 1942, Waddington coined the term epigenetics, supposedly derived from the Greek word “epigenesis” which originally described the influence of genetic processes on development.

In plain language, the term epigenetics refers to the study of biological mechanisms that can switch genes on and off.  Scientist say epigenetics controls genes. Certain conditions in our environment can supposedly cause genes to be silenced or expressed over time. Stated differently, it means our genes can be turned off (becoming dormant) or turned on (becoming active). Scientist say epigenetics is everywhere in our environment in what we eat, where we reside and who we interact with, when we exercise and sleep and even as we age. 

Do our genes have a 'Memory?
The events in our lives (good or bad) eventually can cause chemical modifications around our genes which can turn those genes on or off over time. In certain diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, various genes can be switched into the opposite state, away from the normal/healthy state. Epigenetics, is the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence. (Wikipedia)

Epigenetics research seeks to describe dynamic alterations in the transcriptional such as:

Could the genes of our children be shaped
by our ancestors' life experiences?
Could our genes and that of our children be shaped in part by our ancestors' life experiences? Do our genes have a 'Memory'? Does the lives of our forbearers or grandparents: the food they ate, the air they breathed, and their environment and even what they saw directly impact our lives decades later, in spite of the fact that we never experienced these things ourselves. 

According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA (See Grandmas experiences leave epigenetic mark on your genes). In short, grandparents of Jews who were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived during the devastations of the Cultural Revolution; young African immigrants whose ancestors survived massacres; adults of all races who grew up with parents who are alcoholic or abusive potentially have just more than memories embedded within their genes. Is that weird or awesome science? You decide.

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