Ever since hearing about it, I have been extremely fascinated with Epigenetics and its potential in all fields of science, but especially within the mental health field and oncology.
But before jumping into an explanation of what it is, let me first begin by explaining plain old genetics. Genetics put simply, is what makes us who we are; it is the study of inherited characteristics or genes.
By contrast, epi genetics is based on the idea that environmental factors (such as diet, lifestyle choices and behaviours, and stress) can change the health not only of the people who are exposed to them, but also the health of their descendants as well.
Epigenetic experts believe that the environmental conditions and life experiences of parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents can, in a way, flip “on/off switches” on the genes in their eggs and sperm, or the genes of fetuses in pregnant women, thus changing the genetic code of their offspring and descendants. In this way, new genetic traits can appear in a single generation, and be passed on to kids, grandkids, and beyond.
Still scratching your head? Let me break it down even further…Epigenetics, literally means “on top of genes,” and is the study of gene expression. It is what controls our genes because it turns certain genes on (become active) and off (become dormant). If a gene is dormant, it means that proteins that read DNA cannot access the gene because the DNA is wound too tightly around the proteins (so the proteins are right next to each other, basically touching), making it unreachable.
Now, various factors can effect our epigenetics such as environmental influences, like nature, your diet, frequency of exercise, types of exercise, where you live, your social circle, where and when you sleep, parenting, aging, drinking, smoking and air pollution.
It’s very interesting how much the outer world alters our inner world.
Ultimately, if scientists can figure out how to manually alter genetic expression, it could potentially lead to breakthroughs in cures for cancer, mental illnesses, and perhaps other diseases in general. When the epigenetic code is cracked, the results will definitely be groundbreaking.