Monday, May 20, 2013

You can't blame your Genes

You can't blame your genes for your Acne, Your wrinkles, Your metabolism.  Your tendency towards Cancer and other Disease.  Not entirely.

 The Human Genome Project was completed over ten years ago.   And yet, this little detail is still so unknowm.  After the mapping was done, it turns out we have far fewer genes than previously thought. Not nearly enough to account for all the activity going on in your body.  There are only 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA, not the hundreds of thousands previously suspected.


There are not even enough genes in the human body to account for the existence of the basic protein building blocks that make it possible, much less explain the behavior of these proteins in health and disease states!

The "blueprint" model of genetics: one gene -> one protein -> one cellular behavior, which was once the holy grail of biology, has now been supplanted by a model of the cell where epigenetic factors (literally: "beyond the control of the gene") are primary in determining how DNA will be interpreted, translated and expressed. A single gene can be used by the cell to express a multitude of proteins and it is not the DNA itself that determines how or what genes will be expressed.

Rather, we must look to the epigenetic factors to understand what makes a liver cell different from a skin cell or brain cell. All of these cells share the exact same 3 billion base pairs that make up our genetic code, but it is the epigenetic factors, e.g. regulatory proteins and post-translational modifications, that make the determination as to which genes to turn on and which to silence, resulting in each cell's unique phenotype.

Moreover, epigenetic factors are directly and indirectly influenced by the presence or absence of key nutrients in the diet, as well as exposures to chemicals, pathogens and other environmental influences. Thoughts and emotions also play a role in how these epigenetic factors are articulated.

****In a nutshell, what we eat and what we are exposed to in our environment directly affects our DNA and its expression.*****

Take cystic fibrosis

In CF many of the adverse changes that result from the defective expression of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) gene may be preventable or reversible, owing to the fact that the misfolding of the CFTR gene product has been shown to undergo partial or full correction (in the rodent model) when exposed to phytochemicals found in turmeric, cayenne, and soybean. Moreover, nutritional deficiencies of seleniun, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin e, etc. in the womb or early in life, may "trigger" the faulty expression or folding patterns of the CFTR gene in Cystic Fibrosis which might otherwise have avoided epigenetic activation.

The implications of these findings are rather extraordinary: epigenetic and not genetic factors are primary in determining disease outcome. Even if we exclude the possibility of reversing certain monogenic diseases, the basic lesson from the post-Genomic era is that we can't blame our DNA for causing disease. Rather, it may have more to do with what we choose to expose our DNA to, and even more surprisingly: how we choose to think and feel about our embodiment.

And please, remember when speaking with  your doctors that they are likely still operating under the pre-genomic mapping beliefs  they were taught in med school. Much like how your dermatologist still believes that diet has nothing to do with acne despite the research that goes back decades showing that diet does indeed have a huge affect on acne.