Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ghost in Your Genes

Biology stands on the brink of a shift in the understanding of inheritance. The discovery of epigenetics – hidden influences upon the genes – could affect every aspect of our lives. At the heart of this new field is a simple but contentious idea – that genes have a 'memory'. That the lives of your grandparents – the air they breathed, the food they ate, even the things they saw – can directly affect you, decades later, despite your never experiencing these things yourself. And that what you do in your lifetime could in turn affect your grandchildren.

The conventional view is that DNA carries all our heritable information and that nothing an individual does in their lifetime will be biologically passed to their children. To many scientists, epigenetics amounts to a heresy, calling into question the accepted view of the DNA sequence – a cornerstone on which modern biology sits.

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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this documentary and in some ways I felt excited and overwhelmed by the possibilites of what we inherit from our ancestors, furthermore, what we pass on to the future generations. I am researching my family health history and as I find information regarding my ancestors lifestyles and what they may have been exposed to through the environment I am realizing that yes we are affected by what they were affected by and this is exciting information. My question is. "Will this information contribute to issues such as health insurance premiums, loans to purchase a home, will I be held responsible for an illness my grandchildren might get because of my lifestyle choices? These are just a few questions I feel are connected with ethical issues surrounding the topic of epigenetics. However, I personally find that this is amazing information that can be used by all of us when it comes to taking care of our planet and ourselves so that future generations could possibly not suffer so drastically as we have with cancer, various birth defects, and such viruses as HIV to name a few.