Epigenetics Research Papers Example
“Epigenetics” from Nova
Epigenetics can be defined as the science of studying the chemical influences on genes that turn on some traits and suppress others. The video, “Epigenetics” from Nova on PBS was a very interesting video which explained epigenetics and its effects. Science has led us to believe that genes are responsible for our physical appearance, personality, and behavior and pre-disposition to disease. Current research into epigenomes and their functions is both raising questions and providing some answers as to why some genetic traits are evident in people while others are not.
The video studied sets of identical twins who are born with identical genes. Identical twins not only look like mirror images of each other, the generally share behaviors, such as body language. Over the years, however, as identical twins move on different life paths, epigenetics begin to kick in and change they was their genes operate. Choices in diet, exercise, how they handle stress and in general live their lives is what causes the chemical changes in the epigenomes and how they function.
“Epigenetics” featured a set of twins, Clotilde and Ana Mari. Ani Mari has been diagnosed with cancer and Clotilde has not. Scientists suggest that the reason is because of epigenetics. Randy Jirtle describes the epigenome as being the software the runs the computer’s hardware, the genome (Holt 2007).
The video was fascinating. I have always questioned the importance and the role of genes in determining the “being” of a human being. It is the old controversy of nature vs nurture. Our nature is in our genes. They determine our height, hair color and risk for certain diseases. Some diseases like cystic fibrosis and hemophilia cannot be avoided. Certain combinations of genes from a mother and father will definitely result in the diseases. Nurture on the other hand, how we live our lives and take care of our physical self also has a tremendous influence on our future and the way we are. If heart disease runs in your family, you can avoid cardiac arrest by eating healthy and exercising.
Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins
This study examined monozygotic, or identical, twins. The scientists state that although the twins are born with the same set of genes, over the years, differences in susceptibility to disease and physical and behavioral characteristics become apparent. The scientists studied the differences in DNA methylation and histone acetylation. These are chemicals that occur in the genes that are affected by the epigenomes (Fraga et al 2005).
The researchers followed 80 identical twins recruited in Spain. Their ages ranged from 3 to 74 years old. There were 30 males and 50 females. Samples of the subjects’ genetic material and epigenetic chemicals were obtained. In addition to the physical and chemical analysis, the researchers interviewed all of the twins to determine lifestyles and behaviors: diet; exercise; smoking; alcohol intake and disease) (Fraga et al 2005).
The results found that the chemicals located in the genes remained the same but the composition of the epigenomes were different. This demonstrated that the epigenome is responsible for the genetic expression of certain traits. The scientists determined that lifestyle choices affected the way the epigenomes functioned which explains why as identical twins grow older, distinct differences develop over time. By using sets of twins of varying ages (3 to 74 years old), the scientists documented the changes in epigenomes and the chemicals associated with them over the years. In addition to the lifestyle factor, the scientists also referred to a phenomena they called “epigenetic shift”. This shift is the natural change that occurs in the epigenomes over time that they concluded are not related to lifestyle choices.
Family History Quiz
According to Berger, Kouzarides, Shiekhattar, and Shilatifard (2009), people can greatly affect their epigenomes through diet, exercise and lifestyle. We can either maintain our epigenomes or change them with the choices we make. By consciously making choices we can modify the processes of our epigenomes which can suppress or encourage activities in our genes. Our genes which cannot be altered. What we are born with is what we will have for life. After taking the Dr. Oz survey I found existing strengths and weaknesses in my genetic make-up based on my family’s history.
I discovered a few problems that I can address by making some changes in my routines and behaviors. My parents are long lived but blood pressure has been an issue for most of the members of my family, including myself. Gum disease is also an oral health disease that is caused by genetic factors as much as it is a result of not having good oral hygiene practices. High cholesterol is also a genetic problem for members of my family. Several members are on cholesterol reducing medication. Joint problems such as aches and pains and arthritis run in my family.
In addition to these physical issues, I began to think about the way I handle stress. Minor depression and some anxiety are present in a few family members. The quiz picked up on this. I need to be aware of my feelings and how I cope with them. I believe that most of the problems cited on the quiz are a combination of genetics, the traits I inherited from my family tree, but they can be changed through my present behaviors.
Vitality Compass Life Expectancy Questionnaire
The Vitality Questionnaire provided several suggestions to add days onto my life in light of my current lifestyle. Some of the questions were also on the Dr. Oz quiz. Most of the suggestions were also the same as the suggestions from the Dr. Oz quiz. The suggestions cover diet, exercise, attitude, faith and emotions. Since both quizzes are giving me the same ideas, I need to consider taking their advice and make a few changes.
If I make changes to the food I consume, I can add a total of 597 days on to my life. I need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetable. I also need to add more dairy products and whole grains to meals. These simple dietary changes are a benefit to everyone. I thought I was healthy eater, but I actually need to increase the amount of food I consume each day.
The Vitality Questionnaire also pinpointed my emotional health and attitude. The Dr. Oz survey had also picked up on these subjects as a problem. If I can consciously improve my attitude and be aware of my emotions I can add 499 days to my life expectancy. I tend to worry and this increases my anxiety. Anxiety is very detrimental to good health, mentally, emotionally and physically. The survey also recommended that I be a little friendlier, which surprised me. My religious faith needs to be addressed as well. Attending services at a church of my choice, even once a month would add 183 days on to my expectancy. This practice would also help me to relax and reduce my stress as well as improve my attitude towards others.
My exercise habits also need to be addressed according to the survey. Both structured physical activity and natural movement throughout the day would give me an additional 99 days.
I enjoy exercise and simply need to increase how I often I participate in physical activity. Natural activity is easy to integrate into my life. Parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking and taking the stairs are easy ways to increase my natural movement.
Epigenetics can change the way our genes asset themselves in our lives. These changes can be positive or negative. Studies of twins offered insight to scientists on how this is possible. Issa (2002) also published findings that linked good nutritional intake to positively changing our epigenomes to affect our genes for better health and longevity.
This information led to examining my own life and the genetic factors that are present in my family tree. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, gum disease, joint problems are a few of the health issues I am faced with. Other genetic predispositions to anxiety and mild depression are present. There are measures I can take to be proactive to improve my health and not fall “victim” to my genetic make-up.
Can be improved by communicating openly with someone I am close to. Expression of feelings helps me to cope with them in a positive way. I often get stressed for small reasons and this affects my attitude. By relaxing and accepting situations that I cannot change, I can have a more positive attitude.
Epigenetics gives people, including myself the understanding that we may inhierit our physical and mental traits from our families but there is hope for change. Certain genetic conditions simply cannot be changed such as certain diseases or eye color, but many others can be. The Nova video offered proof that lifestyle choices and changes can effectively change how are epigenomes operate and help us to lead longer and healthier lives.
Berger, S., Kouzarides, T., Shiekhattar, R. and Shilatfard, A. (2009). An operational
definition of epigenetics. Genes and Development 23, 781-783.
Fraga, M., Ballestar, E., Paz, M., Ropero, S., Setien, F., Ballestar, M., Heine-Suner, D.,
Cigudosa, J. Urioste, M., Benetiz, J., Boix-Chornet, M., Sanchez-Aguilera, A.,
Ling, C., Carlsson, C., Poulsen, P., Vaag, A., Stephan, Z., Spector, T., Wu, Y.,
Plass, C. and Esteller, E. (2005). Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of
monozygotic twins. Proceedings of the national Academy of the Sciences, 102(30), 10604-
10609. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0500398102
Holt, Sarah (Producer and Director). (2007). Epigenetics. Nova. Boston, MA. WGBH
Issa, J., (2002). Epigenetic variation and human disease. The Journal of Nutrition 132(8),
885-925. DOI: 0022-3166/02