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What if you were told that you could
change your DNA? All living organisms have DNA
and it’s all the same biological molecules, but it’s the order of the letters
in the genetic code that makes each organism different. The human genome contains over a billion letters and thousands
of these genes can be found within the genes codes for proteins, and is the
most complex molecule of the human body.


The scientific definition for DNA
(deoxyribonucleic acid), it is a self-replicating material in nearly all living
organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes (Lippincott,
Williams & Wilkins, 2013).  It
is the carrier of genetic information. 
What does this mean in relations to altering its ability to carry a
genetic message about an individual to the world?  Can that message be decoded and altered? DNA
can be replicated in molecular biology; DNA replication is the biological
process of producing two identical replicas of DNA from one original DNA
molecule.  The
process occurs in all living organisms and is the basis for biological
inheritance because DNA is made up of a double helix of two complementary

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gene is different at producing proteins of different
shape and chemical composition responsible
for multiple functions in a cell which includes structural proteins, such as those
which form hair, skin and muscle. We have hormonal
proteins that transmit signals through our body,
which helps to coordinate and control certain bodily activities such as metabolism and effects on the glucose levels in blood and urine and the enzymes of the red
blood cell plasma membrane. The DNA in our body contains
information the human body needs to function properly.


There are also environmental factors that affect
and influence the activation of some of our DNA and the regulation of those
proteins that transmit signals throughout our body. Our decision making,
emotions, nutrition and social context all influence our perception and
responses to the world, our internal world of “expressed” genes. When we make
healthy lifestyle choices we support the activation of “good” genes.


I began to learn more about this new
science of epigenetics during my interview with Dr.
Jefferey Ward, M.D.  an Genetic Counselor
and Educator at Northeast Georgia
Medical Center (NGMC). His work and passion has served
humanity through health education, healing practices, scientific research, and
medical intervention. He shares practical lifestyle changes and good health
management to patients that are interested and receptive, thus allowing those environmental
influences to alter or change our genes.


Many people falsely
believe that the DNA we inherit is the sole determinant for our
health and well-being, but researchers have found that this theory of generic
determinism to be flawed and misleading. The human evolution of
biological systems and genetic variation are affected by forces working outside
the DNA sequence, including intracellular, environmental and energetic
influences (citation).


Dr. Jefferey Ward, M.D.
continues to discuss the important difference between genetic determinism and epigenetics: “Genetic determinism is defined by the lifestyle
we live. Our physical traits, physiological and emotional characteristics, are all
wired our genetic code. So, if our genes are controlled by the lifestyle we
lead than our lives are influenced by outside forces beyond our human ability.
Its propagated to believe that diseases and illnesses are inherited through
family attributes” (citation). Clinical and
laboratory evidence shows this is not true.


In the early 1990’s the Human Genome
Project was launched and completed in 2003. The mission detailed the
relationship between human genes and their interactions, which today continues
to serve as the basis for curing diseases
and conditions. This entire technique
revealed how the human body has fewer genes than researchers previously
believed, those genes do not operate as previously predicted.


Epigenetics encompasses far
more than DNA sequence structure and gene expression, it’s our natural environment
and significant life experiences.
After decades of study, researchers have discovered that other factors like
love and appreciation or anxiety and anger influence and alter the outcome of an
individual’s DNA blueprint. An experiment, conducted by The Institute of Heart Math in Boulder Creek, California, the
select participants were able to prove the mind-body connection irrefutable,
emphasizing how human thoughts and
intentions have astonishing
power to change our world.


Researchers have found that the changes in
genetic expression in response to environmental factors also includes our unconscious
thoughts, attitude, perceptions and core beliefs.
 According to (NAME)
on how our feelings regulate genetic expression, we live in a mechanical
universe and our body is a biological machine that
needs to be maintained and nurtured, so by making minor changes, you can
modify your health. When we expose our body to chemical substances our body
responds by readjusting to those components in drugs that modify your machinery, so any form of
modern medicine will find the gene responsible and be able to modify and
control your health. (citation)


The biggest dilemma with believing this
myth is that one will get stuck in a victim mentality believing of the physical or mental characteristics genetically passes
with each generation, by their family genes dictate your life, and since
we cannot change our genetic information of our parents, then that
means our life is beyond human power or control
therefore, you have very little control over your heredity
and environment just the personal choices
and behavior that shape and direct your own genetic readout. What
epigeneticist have revealed is we are in fact an extension of our environment,
which includes our emotions, spiritual beliefs, nutrition and exposure to chemicals.


The human body has tumor suppressor genes,
and these genes can protect other cells from
progressing into cancer, working with the alkaline proteins called
“histones” in our body As Dr. (NAME) at the (M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center) explains, “histones are
rich in amino acids and have a positive charge which can cause them to bind to DNA
which has a negative charge. This will allow a tumor suppressor gene to form a
structure and cancer cells to proliferate.” (citation).


Epigenetics is exceptionally important in nutrition
and detoxification because it can modify the essential components that
regulate gene expression during biological development, without altering the
underlying DNA sequence. By regularly consuming healthy foods, you amplify the body’s natural ability to defend
against tumors and kill diseases.


There is increasing
evidence showing that environmental and lifestyle factors influence epigenetic
mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and microRNA
expression. The
results of inform intervention development and stimulate research into human
disease. For instance, the evolution of recombinant DNA technology (citation) are rapidly transforming the study of human genetics, ultimately
allowing scientists to study the detailed structure and functions of individual
human genes, as well as to manipulate these genes in a variety of previously
unimaginable ways.


Not long ago, data from physical
anthropology (including information about skin color, body build, and facial
traits) were the only source of information available to scientist interested
in human evolution but researchers, today, have a wealth of genetic data,
including molecular data, to support their work.


good news about disease prevention is that you
can control your genes. Every day you are in control of the
environment and lifestyle that dictates your tendency to increase disease
tolerance at the epigenetic level. When a health problem occurs, according to
epigenetic therapy, you must remind those affected cells, of its healthy
function, so they can revert to being normal healthy cells before any
disease, disorder,
or pathological manifestation.


In leading a healthy lifestyle, with
physical exercise, intake of nutrient dense foods, limit exposure to environmental
toxins and chemical substances, and by maintaining a positive mental outlook,
you influence the activities of those genes
to express a positive, disease-fighting behaviors
which is what preventive medicine focuses on with individuals, communities and defined populations. It not about prescribing
a supplement to fix your biological machinery but to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being
and to prevent disease, disability, and death. When more people become educated
and willing to embrace this truth, healthier everyone will become.


Researcher have used two approaches to
help investigate and understand the biological basis of heredity and cell
structure. First it would involve combining
two organisms of
different breeds, varieties, species or generations through sexual reproduction
and analyzing the offspring’s’ traits to develop scientific theory about
the biological mechanisms of inheritance, proving that some genetic conditions or traits, will follow a few
definite and simple rules.


Changes in the human genome
are slow in process but diverse and adaptive. Through epigenetic inheritance,
depending on the parents’ environmental conditions it may reflect within the
offspring without altering the DNA sequence therefore, it would take many
generations before a genetic trait can become dominant within a population.


The second approach provide a foundation
for more a conceptual understanding of inheritance by using cytologic
techniques to study or manipulate the molecular
machine and the process of cell division and cell reproduction. In the 20th
century, cytologists were able to demonstrate that genetic information is a result of biological continuity; transmitting
genetic information from one generation to the next generation, with compelling
evidence to support the central roles that DNA plays in heredity (citation).



Epigenetics is about genetic control and physiological
traits. Researchers
have found identical mice or identical twins are perfect subjects for conducting research work for understanding
human development and progression of human disease. It regulates the patterns of gene expression, it explains why
some people have an autoimmune disease or why identical twins are not perfectly
identical. Such factors are a part of normal physiology of growth
hormone while others contribute to a disease.


As science and technology evolves researchers
are learning more, testing medical treatments and using that knowledge to treat
certain diseases and cancers, according to (NAME), one
of the University of Georgia geneticists explained
the study like this: “The most effective way to see the results of
epigenetics is by differences in identical twins. Identical twins have the exact
same genome. Even in human twins there is usually certain physical features
that allow others to tell them apart. One mouse can be large with white fur,
and its twin can be obese with brown fur., scientists have theorized that
certain genes get turned on while others do not. Environmental influences can also
change the amount of DNA methylation, thus affect physical development. This is
also true with mental illness. If one twin has a mental illness, the other twin
will have a 50/50 chance of developing the same illness because they have
identical genomes.” (citation)


Mice are convenient mammals for testing
because researchers can observe the target
actions and the effects of environmental exposure. But it remains
uncertain what exactly DNA
methylation and histone modification
would do to humans since a direct study in a controlled setting would expose a
population of women and their children to harmful substances. One example of a
natural experiment of how outside influences have affected the offspring was
during the during World War II when the food supply became scarce the women
that starved or malnourished during their last trimester had underweight babies
or miscarriages. Furthermore, the babies that were born with at a low birth
weight, remained underweight throughout their lives, and the normal-weight
babies were more likely to become overweight into adulthood, suggesting that
some aspect carried on into the next generation. (citation)


Mice are not the only mammals that have
been tested on. There’s been major debate in epigenetics with cloning when researchers
in Scotland created Dolly by taking genetic material from an adult sheep cell,
placing it into an unfertilized sheep egg and then being implanted into a
surrogate mother sheep to be brought to term; policymakers and ethicists from around
the world began debating on Dolly’s cloning because of safety ad ethnical
concerns over the procedure itself that would potentially be used in a similar
manner on humans.   


These ethnic and safety concerns
focused more on failed outcomes, high risk and potential harm inflicted on
humans, since the success rate for cloned mammals has been poor. Cloned animals
are more likely to die within weeks of birth or abnormal offspring. Dolly died
at age 6; when the average sheep lives 12 years, but researchers are making every
effort to improve the success percentage.


When the FDA approved meat and dairy
products from cloned animals be safe; agriculturalist and farmers began producing
more cloned livestock with desirable genetics, increasing production and
breeding stock. Beyond safety concerns, religious conservatives have
concerns that the Dolly experiment could eventually lead to human embryos never
fully intended for life. Researchers conducting therapeutic cloning will create
embryos that are a source of embryonic stem cells that could be used to
regenerate tissues or organs in human patients. This newer cloning technique has
received a lot of controversy over its ethical issues about using embryonic
cells to manipulate embryonic-like stem cells from skin cells.

As for human cloning, the National
Bioethics Advisory Commission in the United States declared it morally
unacceptable shortly after the birth of Dolly. The commission based its decision
on the potential risk and safety concerns to humans, in which it was recommended
for legislatures to adopt a resolution banning human cloning. Congress held
hearings on human cloning but never passed legislation.

Beginning with the discovery of the
structure of DNA and accelerating significantly with the development of
recombinant DNA techniques, these scientific approaches helped researchers to
have a direct understanding of human genetic variation, unlike before, they
would make inferences about gene expression and function. These limitations
made identifying and studying genes in humans a very long and tedious


There are even more powerful techniques on
the horizon that researchers expect will have a formidable impact on the future
of scientific research and clinical genetics. One technique is, DNA chip technology (microarray
technology), a revolutionary new tool designed to identify tens of thousands of
genetic expressions in one experiment.

In one application, the chip is
designed to detect gene mutations in one gene. The DNA microchip consist of a
small glass plate encased in plastic. It is manufactured using a process like a
computer microchip. It contains synthetic single-stranded DNA sequences
identical to that of the normal gene and all possible mutations of that gene. (NAME) To determine whether an individual possesses
a mutation in the gene, a researcher must first obtain a blood sample. After
denaturing, or separating, the DNA samples into single strands and manageable
fragments, the researcher will label the fragments with fluorescent dyes: the
person’s DNA with red dye and the normal DNA with green dye. Both sets of
labeled DNA can hybridize, or bind, to the synthetic DNA on the chip. (citation)

If the person does not have a mutation
in the gene, both DNA samples will hybridize equivalently to the chip and the
chip will appear uniformly yellow. If a person does have a mutation, will
appear red. DNA microarray technology has allowed researchers to probe further
on complex functional relationships
in cell activity between thousands of genes to confirm that a mutation is
present. (citation). Although researchers
are continuing to refine this general approach to gene therapy, new approaches continue
to emerge. One new strategy that researchers are hoping will be used to correct genetic
defects is called chimeraplasty.

Chimeraplasty uses synthetic strands of RNA and DNA sequences to
stimulate genes normal DNA repair mechanisms to remove and substitute the
correct one. Currently, chimeraplasty is still in development mode and clinical
trials are underway. (citation).

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