Epigenetics piggybacks with CRISPR.
The addition of methyl groups (methylation) to our (deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA can change rapidly during the life span of a cell or organism, or it can be essentially permanent once set early in the development of the embryo (Epigenetics). (Encyclopeaedia Britannica Inc., 2018. Web. 29 Jul. 2018)
So, what does this mean?
It means what you do in your everyday life or what your ancestors were exposed to can ‘tweak’ your DNA (chemical modification). Essentially, the experiences you encounter imprint a chemical tag on your DNA which either turns ‘on’ or ‘off’ the potential expression of that particular strand of DNA. Scary or not, you can inherit the information in your ancestors DNA.
The study of epigenetics came into general use in the early 1940s when British embryologist Conrad Waddington used it to describe the interactions between genes and gene products. Since then, information revealed by epigenetics studies has revolutionized the fields of genetics and developmental biology. The chemical tags that associate tightly with the DNA in the cell nucleus determine when or even if a given gene is expressed in a cell or an organism.
An article from “What is Epigenetics” July 30, 2018, outlines epigenetics. Think of the human lifespan as a very long movie. The calls would be the actors. DNA would be the script – instructions for all the participants of the movie. The DNA sequence would be the words on the script, and certain blocks of these words that instruct key actions or events to take place would be the genes. The concept of genetics would be like screenwriting.
The concept of epigenetics would be the directing. The script can be the same, but the director can choose to eliminate or tweak certain scenes or dialogue, altering the movie. After all, Steven Spielberg’s finished product would be drastically different than Woody Allen’s for the same movie script.
Imagine, we can direct our DNA. The research in methylating of DNA is in its infancy. However, it’s becoming apparent that a decrease in methylation contributes to the expression of the gene while the increase of methylation contributes to the silence of the gene. (Judith L. Fridovich-Keil http://www.britannica.com/science/epigenetics) Epigenetics works by adding or removing small chemical tags to our DNA.
Environmental and lifestyle factors influence cell replication. (Lupus Foundation of America) This ‘damage’ occurs when lupus immune cells accumulate more DNA damage upon exposure to environmental stressors compared to healthy immune cells. Also, living near a major highway may genetically influence overactive inflammatory conditions.
These same epigenetic changes extend to abuse especially when children are involved. Some youngsters show symptoms immediately, but others appear asymptomatic until adulthood. Also, untreated sexual abuse is a time bomb. It ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion. (You Are Not Alone – Men’s Health, June 2018)
Children who are hit as a form of punishment at a young age have altered stress-hormone profiles, which can make them more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses like heart and respiratory disease later in life. (WebMD.COM May/2018)
The reason that the concept of physical weight is important is that if grandma and grandpa are obese that tendency is imprinted on to their DNA and can be genetically passed on to their descendants. (DiscoverMagazine.com) Epigenetics doesn’t alter the sequence but influences the gene expression. Childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S. (WebMD July/Aug2018)
Can we require our DNA?
Science is using a new gene-editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 or simply CRISPR to revise the DNA of animals and plants and even human cells in petri dishes according to Sam Sternberg, Ph.D., a biochemist, and CRISPR expert who completed his doctorate in the lab of Jennifer Doudna at University of California, Berkeley.
Think of your unwound DNA double helix as your very long, personal bar code.
Scientists attach a ‘messenger’ molecule to the section of the DNA that identifies which section to remove. Then another ‘enzyme’ is sent to the identified section and removes it. Following this, the cell realizes that the DNA is damaged and repairs it.
This scientific discovery has tremendous discovery for not only epigenetics in repairing gene mutations but for medical treatments. A recent use is seen in travel to outer space. The astronaut James Kelly spent an extended period in space and descended with some epigenetic changes to his DNA. Therefore, he was no longer an identical twin.
However, the space center scientists were not to be disappointed. CRISPR to the rescue. Astronaut Kelly is now an identical twin without evident epigenetic changes – amazing.
Imagine if we do the same for diabetes, cancer, children of abuse, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune conditions, obesity, beta-thalassemia, and alcoholism. The health benefits are amazing not to mention the cost savings. We would have a healthy, profitable world.