Once upon a time it was thought that you could do little if you were unlucky enough to inherit bad genes. We were taught that the genes you inherit are your destiny end of story! Well, through the relatively new study of epigenetics, we are learning that this is not necessarily the case. While there are many genetic patterns on lock down, there are many that are not.
So what is epigenetics? epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by changes in the phenotype ( gene expression) without alteration of the genome. It was first coined by Waddington in 1942. His epigenetics landscape is a metaphor for how gene regulation modulates development.
Our genes are made up of DNA which is our genetic code. What we inherit from our parents. We have over 3 billion of these chemical pairs in every one of our cells ( except red blood cells). The genome is a complete set of genes or genetic material present in our cell ). So basically every cell in your body has all of the DNA material present to make an entire You! Because of this, the cell has to have something to tell it what to do, where to do it and when. That is where the epigenome comes in to play. You can look at the epigenome as the software that directs the genomic hardware of a computer. As mentioned, all of our cells carry the same DNA and Genes, but it is the epigenome that determines which genes are expressed, and determines how a heart cell becomes a heart cell, a liver cell a liver cell, and a hair cell a hair cell.
Our DNA unravels and responds to (its ecosystem). Things included in that ecosystem are temperature, noise, radiation, food, drugs and nutrition. So the very environment that surrounds our cells on a chemical level can determine gene expression. For that reason, a pair of identical twins ( same phenotype), raised apart in different environments, can present very differently. Not only in appearance but in personality and behavior. It almost reminds me of nature VS nurture.
The changes by epigenetics can persist across generations. This is true even though there is no change to the actual genome, only the (expression). These changes can be for better of for worse enhancing or inhibiting your immune system. For instance, say one of your grandparents were bitten by a mosquito and got the the Rotavirus. They then develop antibodies to the virus and their genes are changed. They then pass down the immunity to that virus genetically to you! The genes were changed and passed down! This knowledge opens up so many avenues with regards to detecting possible disease paths in those who show signs of genetic predisposition. Therefore what your grandparents did and the circumstances of their childhood can certainly affect you! This is a huge topic with so many winding turns, so I may cover that alone in another blog article. If the topic of epigenetics interests you, Please see the source information below and watch the video.