Don’t Blame DNA. Blame Habits, Lifestyle, Life Experience and even Grandma
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Posted: Monday, July 02, 2012
by Christofer French
Rain Dancer Associates, LLC
In just the last few decades, “DNA” has leapt from scientific journals to modern parlance. These days people use “it’s in my DNA” as a way to fundamentally describe, excuse or exalt in the behavior they are describing. This “short hand” way of describing behavior and actions is fascinating because in our great urge for simplicity and common comprehension of what is in fact deeply complex, leaves us bereft of the wisdom and light that is coming from newer and newer technologies and research. So, from a pedestrian mindset that refers to the DNA of the Car, the DNA of a Culture, the DNA of an Industry --- none of which exist, maybe we can, through more expansive and complex cause and effect features become mindful of the more complete way that we function at the DNA level through this new “epigenesis”.
“That Runs in the Family”
Because DNA and RNA are recent sciences our human family has basically had folk wisdom and the knowledge of family health and tendencies to go by. I remember my Mother telling me about how her Father was the only one of 7 brothers who survived; all of the 6 died of diabetes. “That runs in the Family” is an age old phrase that each language probably has a distinctive reference for. Concerning genetics, the folk wisdom would acknowledge how hair coloration or body build could go back suddenly to long ago grand parents or “the red head in the wood pile”. Up to just a couple hundred years ago, it was family history, accidental and surprising “blood line” occurrences and strange and surprising mutations that would govern our parlance about these most mysterious and wondrous happenings. And indeed, there was family remembrance of who died of what. “Yes, that’s a disease we have had in our family. At least one per generation has died of that. Sure enough.”
Of course, up until the early 1900’s, it was the prospect and scourge of INFECTION that got to us. The plague, malaria, dystentary, food poisoning and the like plagued the human family. When wars would occur, we would know that TYPHUS would end up causing more deaths than the violence of war. As a species, we have been in a state of wonder and confusion over the diseases, that at cellular levels seemed to be of such overwhelming mystery. And of course, until we developed the knowledge of “bugs” and germs and bacteria and viruses we knew very little about how to deal with them. And then, apart from “bugs”, we developed an understanding of genetic involvement in the “modern” diseases of cancer and heart disease and immune disorders. So, now that we think we have a working understanding of RNA/DNA, along comes Epigenetics to complicate, but also in a sense, simplify and add an explanation to why we get the diseases we get. Since I am in my 60’s, it seems so recently that we started talking about DNA. Well, it appears that new research is going to be showing us an even more interesting way of understanding human health. This has led me to be fascinated by this new topic. Allow me to quote freely from this small collection of sources.
DNA Is Not in the Driver’s Seat
Fox News enlightened with a new report recently. “Epigenome”, which literally means "on top of the genome," refers to all the factors that control how a gene is EXPRESSED. A new study potentially adds to the growing body of research suggesting that the epigenome may be at the root of many health problems.
Epigenetics – the Totality of You is Not Just What Your Genes Are
Robin Holliday, a Genetic Scientist defined epigenetics as "the study of the mechanisms of temporal and spatial control of gene activity during the development of complex organisms." Thus epigenetic can be used to describe anything other than DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism.
“Let Me Express Myself.”
"People think there is nothing you can do (about your disease risk)," said researcher Rod Dashwood of Oregon State University, who gave a lecture on epigenetics at the Experimental Biology 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif. "But you are not just what your genes are."
Rather, you are your genes under the influence of your epigenome, which, during critical periods, is shaped by your environment, your lifestyle, your life experience — and those of your immediate ancestors.
Dashwood's work indicates that many whole foods — including broccoli sprouts, onions, garlic, radishes, wasabi, daikon, horseradish and wheat bran — may help prevent epigenetic processes that lead to degenerative diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and even aging.
"The (epigenetic) effect may be contributing to the overall health benefits of these particular foods," Dashwood told LiveScience.
While the multi-generational impact of veggies has not been studied, Dashwood said, "some epigenetic marks can go through six, seven generations."
The Epigenome Could Account for 80 to 90 percent of Risk
"Genes only account for 5 to 10 percent of the familial risk of breast cancer," said de Assisi, by way of illustration. Something inherited in the epigenome could account for the rest.
A Biblical Quote Remystifies
Many a preacher has tried to explain this scripture through the generations,. Numbers 14:18 - Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Certainly many people have written off this kind of statement to the “Theology of an Angry Old Testament God”, convincing people that they should not sin because an irritated Deity will run around with his elves following up on unsuspecting grandchildren to ruin their lives because you were a falling down drunken alcoholic. It does make one wonder whether an ancient wisdom concerning “good and healthful conduct” benefitting your family is now being validated by science with the new research of Epigenetics. Here we are in the 21st Century and low and behold as the research goes further and further, we can see how the “top” of the genome causes individual expression apart from the strict DNA.
“Some Epigenetic Marks Can go Through Six and Seven Generations”
While genomic information is uniform in the different cells of complex organisms, the epigenome controls the differential expression of genes in specific cells. The programming of gene expression profiles is therefore dependent on the epigenome. The epigenome is composed of two modules, a component that is part of the covalent structure of DNA, methylated cytosines located in the dinucleotide sequence CG and a noncovalent module
More research is needed but the lunchroom choice between a bacon-cheeseburger or stir-fry may not only affect your own health, but that of your children and grandchildren.
Basic Description – Methylation and Histone Modification
In biology and specifically genetics , epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene exoression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: επ?- over, above, outer) genetics It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of such changes are DNA Methylation and histone modification both of which serve to regulate gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence.
The following is from an abstract on “an operational definition of epigenetics” from CSH Press
“Epigenator: The epigenetic phenotype is likely triggered by changes in the environment of the cell. Everything occurring upstream of the first event on the chromosome would be part of the Epigenator signal, including an environmental cue or niche and the subsequent signaling pathways leading to the Initiator. Once an Epigenator signal is received, it is converted to an intracellular Epigenator pathway culminating in the “activation” of the Initiator.
Epigenetic Initiator: The Initiator translates the Epigenator signal to mediate the establishment of a local chromatin context at a precise location. Following the priming of the Initiator by the Epigenator signal, the Initiator will define the location on a chromosome where the epigenetic chromatin state is to be established.
Epigenetic Maintainer: The Maintainer sustains the epigenetic chromatin state but is not sufficient to initiate it. This signal involves many different pathways, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, histone variants, nucleosome positioning, and others. Maintainers have the common property that they do not have absolute DNA sequence specificity. Consequently, they could operate at any chromosomal location to which they are recruited by an Initiator. Maintainers may function by carrying an epigenetic signal through the cell cycle or could maintain epigenetic landscapes in terminally differentiated cell types.”
How much I hated my Father’s Smoking
When I was 6 I was imprisoned by my father’s nonstop chain smoking. My visceral repugnance made me sick, headachey, weary and red-eyed. I would figure out ways of not being near the smoke, even though it was omnipresent in our home. While this has nothing directly to do with epigenetics as far as my father and I are concerned, it could have much to do with lung cancer events in myself and my children, and my children’s children, if in the future science does show a potential connection to be valid.
My children will tell you that I am “death on smoking”. I have simply been unwavering in my hatred for it. That does not mean that my children have never smoked, however they do live with my continue adherence to my point of view on smoking.
There was a TV movie about twenty years ago in which James Woods and James Garner played friends. The smoker and a non-smoker, life-long friends find out that the non-smoker has lung cancer from second hand smoke. That’s enough right there to tell you that there would be plenty of ready-made dialogue for this personal and health crisis.
“Second Hand Smoke” is a way of talking about how a toxin can be “shared” by one person to many others, often loved ones.
On the day we put my father in his grave, (died of lung cancer) my wife ceased her smoking on that day. Her health has improved because of it. Again, this is not at this point, an indication of epigenetics, but it is a way of demonstrating how an environmental factor can affect an individual, and perhaps, in the future, be shown to be epigenetically carried on through generations.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Again, I am dealing with a toxic situation that affects another; not necessarily having to do with a demonstrable epigenetic impact, but definitely show how toxins can affect the developing baby. While this condition has gone from a barely classified condition of 30 years ago to a raging angst of moral outrage that has been overstated at times and over-moralized, it is still indeed a medical condition that can occur.
The main features of this pattern are pre and/or postnatal growth retardation, characteristic facial abnormalities, and central nervous system dysfunction, including mental retardation. The main variables have to do with the amount of alcohol and how much is dangerous to the fetus. Now there is a balance among professionals as to how to advise pregnant mothers about this condition and its danger.
Both of these examples have to do with toxic elements introduced into the human system with varying degrees of negative impact. I personally look forward to a time when, through much further study and evidence that research into these conditions and epigenetics will help civilization get a clearer and clearer picture of how we can develop habits and patterns that can increase our own lives and alleviate suffering in the “here and now” but also get data and information about how epigenetic information will affect us in the future.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,591742,00.html#ixzz1zU694RMj
This Article has been viewed 584 times. (Not updated in real-time.)Top-level comments on this article: (4 total)
The study of genetics has always totally fascinated me.....
.this article is replete to the point of probity. Enjoyed it immensely!
Thanks Chris- for all this work- Always EllaThanks much. This is so compelling to me. I am very drawn to it. Appreciate your helping out with the commentary. Yours, CUF
Christofer...you have hit the nail on the head, both scientifically and spiritually. That scripture you quoted about 'sin to the third and fourth generation' has great significance in how we teach our children to eat, and how we model our own lives and appetites. There is another scripture 'my people perish for lack of knowledge', that also hits on this 'lifestyle' issue. Teaching truth, you are!.
DNA is our physical characteristics and footprint, if you will, but not set in stone as you clearly show. We can have a predisposition to something, but hold it back by healthy habits.
I hate smoking too, and will not allow anyone to smoke in the house....I see my hubby's COPD and the other issues that come from this addiction, but have stood my ground on second hand smoke. Of course, there will always be the exception that gets lung cancer from another source, but it does not alleviate the health issues and costs for those who do, and once one passes that point of no return in tissue damage, it's all downhill from there, and quickly. Great research and very helpful, if people will listen.
I'm going on a Sabbatical for awhile, as some of my stressful issues are resolved now, and others are just starting....I may surf quietly, but I'm taking a break from writing online.....and maybe things will be better when I get back to it. I've got a lot of thinking and praying to do, without distractions....later friend.
Great Job!Thanks for your thorough, earnest, heartfelt comment. I will miss you. If you accidentally happen to surf by me, think of me. As I will be remembering you. It would be remarkable indeed if a "healthful way" could be demonstrated to enhance the "fates of genes". See you when you return. Christofer French's comments will miss you too.Elle, don't go!
Great work. Enlightening...thanks.
SteveThanks Steve. Appreciate your notice. All the best.
Christopher I love you for writing this! I hate how so much gets attributed to DNA, and have never believed that it's solely responsible for anything.
Also, I've often thought when people say "heart attacks run in our family" and attribute it to DNA, that it's possible the heart vulnerability runs through the family, but the way they each respond to stress is a learned thing, and gets passed on from generation to generation. And that's what causes all the heart attacks.
Great article, thanks!Thanks very much. With this being a new scientific dimension, more and more of these things are going to be "put to bed" and more common sense things will be inscribed in the study of this new discipline. Amen and Amen.Yes, yes, yes!