The sequencing of the human genome capped
off the 20th century's tireless search for genetic causes for all
diseases. But epigenetics is the hot new science now. Dr. Anne Marie Fine, a Scottsdale physician, certainly thinks so. Dr. Fine spoke
in Paris recently on Epigenetics and Beauty and next month will present a paper called "Dining at the Epigenetic Cafe" in Monte Carlo, Monaco at the largest European physicians' anti-aging conference. In June she will present a paper entitled "Epigenetics and the Autosomal DNA of Human Populations: Clinical Perspectives and Personal Genome Tests
at the University of British Colombia, Canada," with Donald Yates, principal investigator at DNA Consultants,
along with participating in a 90 minute colloquium on epigenetics, autosomal DNA and ethnic identity. Clearly, epigenetics is stealing the
From the Fine Center for Natural Medicine News, here is how Dr. Fine describes epigenetics and its promise:
"Epi" literally means "above" so epigenetics are the influences from above that affect the DNA. Epigenetics refers to modifications to DNA and chromatin, the protein scaffolding that surrounds the DNA, that persist from one cell division to the next, despite a lack of change in the underlying DNA sequence. So the "epigenome" refers to the interface between the environment and the genome. This is the basis behind the new science of epigenetics- how the environment affects the cellular DNA. Cells are bathed continuously in a sea of changing environmental conditions. This means the epigenome is dynamic and responsive to environmental signals especially during development, but also throughout life. It is becoming increasingly apparent that stress, environmental chemicals, and nutrient deficiencies are some of the biggest factors that promote epigenetic changes to the DNA. In addition, some of these changes in gene expression persist long after the exposure has stopped. What this means is that these changes can transcend generations.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh stated in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 2009:
It is becoming clear that a wide variety of common illnesses, behaviors, and other health conditions may have at least a partial epigenetic etiology, including cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, and autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other cognitive dysfunctions, psychiatric illnesses, obesity and diabetes, infertility and sexual dysfunction. Effectors of epigenetic changes include many agents, such as heavy metals, pesticides, tobacco smoke, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, basic nutrients, and the social environment, including maternal care. It has even been suggested that our thoughts and emotions can induce epigenetic changes.
"Incredibly, only about 2 percent of diseases can be attributed to locked-in single gene mutations," says Dr. Fine. Most disease occurs as a complex interaction between genetic susceptibility and the environment. This means, while there are genetic predispositions, there
are environmental triggers that actually start the disease, but also
environmental factors that protect against developing the disease. The key is to understand which factors promote disease, and avoid them, and which protect, and seek them out. Our
genetic makeup doesn't necessarily determine our biological fate.
"Genes may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger," says Dr. Fine.
James Watson once said that the double helix contains a library of detailed information about all generations of our ancestry "if only we could read it." Combining epigenetics and the advances in autosomal DNA tests, we are beginning to read the whole of human medical, evolutionary and ethnic history, at least in outline form.