How We Are Who We Are
by Indigo Star
A Fundamental Scientific Revelation
The world of science long believed that DNA sequencing (genotype) was the blueprint of an individual, that it was unchangeable and that variation was only inheritable i.e. passed genetically from your parents.
I am sure many of you at some point will have heard the expression “You get that from your mother” or perhaps a musically gifted child be told ” you get that from your Great Grandfathers side”. These common observations are down to our genetics and the unique characteristics that we have inherited from our predecessors.
So what’s the big deal about Epigenetics? I hear you ask.
Epi is the Greek word for ‘upon’ or ‘over’. Genetic comes from the word genetikos which genetive, generation, birth to, origin. Put them together and you get Epigenetics which essentially means extra growth and was a phrase coined by C.H Waddington in 1942.
This exciting discovery brings a whole new perspective to be shared, as research continues to shed light on the importance of external factors and influences such as diet, exercise and parenting, revealing how environmental changes and circumstantial exchanges create stably heritable phenotype (observable characteristics) resulting from changes in chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence. A chromosome is a thread like structure of nucleic acids and protein found in the nucleus of most living cells, carrying genetic information in the form of genes.
Unlike the previous scientific train of thought that believed the genotype (DNA) affected the genes which the cells would then read, it is now clear that lifestyle experiences can modify the activation or silencing of certain genes but not causing alteration to the genetic code sequence of DNA itself . The micro-structure (not code) of the DNA may be modified by way of chromatin proteins effectively tagging the DNA with additional information that determines how the DNA is read.
The controversy comes because the term Epigenetics describes non-heritable processes that determine gene expression. These changes and genome tags last for the duration of a cell’s life and can also remain effective over multiple generations, even though they do not involve changes to DNA. The realisation that non-genetic factors inform and cause the organism’s (i.e. you and me) genes to behave and express themselves differently is monumental to us all as it is evident that the choices we make or things we experience not only effect us but also potentially effect our children and our children’s children on a cellular level.
In our own lifetime what we eat, whether we exercise, smoke, suffer mental, emotion or physical dis-ease or hardship, all inform the expression of our genes which in turn add a secondary set of instructions with our DNA.
So if your Mother was born in the city during war time when scarcity was prevalent, her DNA will probably be tagged with critical survival information most likely based on nutritional shortage, lack, loss and anxiety stress. These tags would cause and effect different behaviour on a cellular level to that of her twin who was quickly whisked off to live with an affluent family in the countryside with greater exposure to clean air, natural environment, wholesome unprocessed nutritionally rich foods, comfort and security within a positive stress free family model. Subsequently they would both have heritable differentiated processes. If both of the twins then had children, those children would inherit not only the DNA of their mothers but also the tags of extra information rendering their DNA to be read differently on a cellular level and thus causing phenotypic changes resulting from the interaction of their genotype with the environment.
The good news is that we have the potential in our own life time to alter our epigenetics through greater awareness, conscious choice and lifestyle changes so that our children’s children can be biologically, neurological, physiologically and psychologically healthier, enjoying greater well-being and longevity.
This new understanding is an invitation to eat well, sleep well, exercise, drink ample water, ensure getting out in nature is part of your routine, have fun, dance, live, love, laugh and be happy. Music is an excellent way to improve your well-being, singing in particular has proven benefits to you on every level of human-being. The more music you enjoy, the better you and your cells will feel which will give your genes happy tags for generations to come.
For Further insight and introductions to Epigenetics please visit the links below:
Musical analogy (brief overview) http://youtu.be/W3Kg9w-srFk
Funny science (brief overview) http://youtu.be/kp1bZEUgqVI
Ghost in your genes documentary http://youtu.be/X4ZqzdrLruk
Lecture at the Royal Institution http://youtu.be/9DAcJSAM_BA
Empowerment perspective http://youtu.be/kqG5TagD0uU