Friday, October 19, 2007

NPR - Epigenomes

I watched the coolest show this week on Epigenomes, the "Ghost in the Genes" on PBS' NOVA show. It's about how genes aren't the final answer to our being, but, as they say, everything is relative. And with our genes, it's relative to our lifestyle on about everything we encounter throughout our life.

The program shows that genes are effected by some chemicals which turns the genes on or off or makes them able or unable to express themselves. This means we can have genes for a number of factors, but if they're not turned on or not available, then we won't see them. They're simply invisible to be used. They've determined that we only have about 25,000 genes, and 98.9% similar to many other animals - meaning 1.1% has to explain the difference between humans and other animals, and the differences in humans.

But they're finding out we have several hundred thousand epigenomes which controls the genes. We're more complex than we could ever imagine. And epigenomes are controlled by the whole array of our environment, such as diet, exercise, work, life, stress, geography - where we live and travel, interactions with chemicals, and so on. We are really dynamic, not fixed by our genes, but changing by our epigenomes.

And since some genes are for the susceptibility or predispostion of something, then you have the epigenomes effecting that as well as the environment effecting the outcomes of the genes themselves. This means you may or may not see the condition, and if you do, then your environment has to trigger it. We are from conception to death, a living experiment.

The epigenomes are dynamic over your life. Some will change as you age, meaning the invisible become visible - why some get conditions, diseases or illnesses later in life, or some become invisible - why some never have or get conditions, diseases or illnesses which occur in their family. The irony is that we just don't know, and until we can get the easy tests, we'll likely never know.

And add to that, they discovered genes understand family history, mostly the father's, but some effects of epigenomes are carried for two to three generations from their environment and experience. And theirs from their family, and so on backward into history. One study proved it's not just what you eat, but what your grandparents ate. And what you eat carries into your grandchildren.

Gives lunch a whole different meaning. You can get more information from the human epigenome project (HEP).

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