BY dR. DAVE HEPBURN | OCTOBER 31, 2012
The human body has 210 types of cells, each with the exact same DNA.
Each cell has 23 sets of chromosomes, half from our mother and half, hopefully, from Dad. So, if our cells all have exactly the same DNA then why do cells in our kidney do kidney things like piddle and get stoned but don’t play Sudoku or watch Bachelor Pad, tasks which are left to cells camped out in our brain, but cells with the exact same DNA?
Cells anywhere in our body initially started out as faceless, purposeless (see old prairie senators with grandchild brides) cells filled with DNA that were looking for a job. If that cell happened to find itself in a liver, surrounded by other cells who were busy livering i.e., drinking, detoxing, drinking, detoxing, occasional belching ... then it would start to do the same thing. It would say to itself, “Listen DNA, I want you to start making proteins and stuff that would allow me to drink and detoxify so I can hang out here with these liver guys. And while we’re at it I want to shut down the parts of me that might be inclined to make hair red, eyes see and teeth grow. No need for that here in the liver.”
If that same pluripotent cell woke up in an ovary, looked around and saw other cells applying mascara while driving 117 mph or reading 50 Shades of Grey, then it too would shed its purposelessness and turn on certain genes that allowed it to be an ovary while turning off unnecessary genes. Yet take that same cell and implant it in a testicle, it would instead turn off the mascara gene and turn on other genes. (Note: most genes in testicles and testicles in jeans are apparently always turned on.) External influences around a cell can actually change the way your DNA works!
Knowing how to turn on and turn off certain genes in the same DNA is what the exciting world of epigenomics is all about. In fact the Human Epigenomic Project, HEP (no relation), a project dedicated to discovering the human epigenome is so advanced that it will make the human genome project “look like a kindergarden project done in the 1500s on an abacus.”
Epigenomics is about to become much more important than genomics. If genetics is the alphabet of our DNA, epigenetics is the spelling. This is another step toward not just personalized medicine but rather super-personalized medicine.
And here is the remarkable thing. What YOU do may well kill your … grandchildren!
After an external influence turns a gene on or off, that gene can often be passed from generation to generation, a phenomenon known as epigenomic inheritance. It means that a parent's experiences, in the form of epigenetic tags, can be passed down to future generations. You smoke and THEY might get cancer, even though they have never smoked or even been exposed to smoke but rather because your smoking has stimulated the epigene to shut off some tumor suppressor genes. Thanks for nothing gramps.
Other fascinating examples:
-Maternal anxiety during pregnancy can cause a child to develop asthma in later life
-Men who smoke by age 11 will have sons who are obese by age 9
-Your exposure to pesticides may cause your grandchildren to develop ovarian disease and be infertile
-The amount and type of food eaten between age 9-12 can determine the risk of diabetes and heart disease in future generations
Initially it was thought that genes predetermined outcomes. Now everything we do, we inhale, we eat, pray and love can affect our gene expression and that of future generations. It is “the ghost in our genes” (in Sealey’s case it is Casper the friendly sock). Epigenetics actually introduces the concept of free will into our previous idea of “genes as fate.”
Suddenly, for better or worse, we appear to have a measure of control over our genetic legacy. From a personal perspective, I believe the fact that my grandfather inhaled copious amounts of windshield wiper fluid and was struck in the head by a German grenade is why I’m gonna sit down right now and watch Bachelor Pad.
Dr. Dave is returning to Africa on safari in September 2013!! If interested in going with him, call 888-432-8344 to find out more.