Epigenetics and Mysterious Influences

For those of you who require a refresher on genetics and DNA sequencing, all things biological boil down to the arrangement of the 4 DNA bases: A, T, C, and G. The combinations of these four bases constitute our genetic code, which is incorporated in each of our cells. These same bases also serve as the building blocks for viruses which can make us sick, and it is the study of the composition of these viruses that is the impetus for Big Pharma and medical researchers round the globe.

 

But, as is so often the case, science cannot explain everything that happens to us—changes in our body occur that are not reflected in altered DNA sequencing. It is this mysterious X factor that constitutes the area of research known as epigenetics. According to Wikipedia, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression… caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence.

 

Ok, so what does this mean and how does this relate to re-booting?

 

Utterly Fabricated Illustration: what this means is that a sequence such as ATTGCAC programs the production of, say, Protein 1. At some point, for some mysterious reason, the body stops making Protein 1 and begins generating another protein, despite the fact that the original, underlying sequence (which produced Protein 1) is unchanged. Nothing detectable about the situation has changed, except for the final outcome of the specific protein produced. So, what’s going on here?

 

This epigenetics example is a way to examine what can happen in some re-booters’ lives. There may be nothing on the surface that has changed in your life, and yet, you have changed. Maybe no one else can see it. Maybe you can’t even articulate to yourself what it is that’s going on, but you know you aren’t as you were. Things that used to be important to you are no longer. All of a sudden, you start thinking about someone you relegated to the past long ago or, perhaps, you become intrigued by something that had never previously interested you, for no reason you can articulate. It just happened.

 

Now, admitting that 90% of science is, alas, beyond my ability to comprehend, what excites me about epigenetics is all the implications that it suggests! To begin with, we’re obviously missing the correct vocabulary and technology to identify what is the source of the change because we know the change exists. This, then, reminds us that we don’t hold all the facts or have a complete picture of the circumstances. I think this point is well worth emphasizing because so often in life—let alone in our media soaked culture—messages are presented to us as though all angles have been considered, a complete picture is rendered for us, ready made. Donald Rumsfeld was spot on when he referred to unknown unknowns: we don’t know what we don’t know. Now, this statement has been ridiculed by many over the years, but I embrace it. To posit that any of us has a complete and full grasp of a situation with so many moving and ill-defined parts, well, that’s the very definition of hubris, isn’t it?

 

“We don’t know what we don’t know.” The difference between this and epigenetics is that we can, for the latter, definitively identify that a specific change has occurred.

 

I may be talking in circles, but what I’m trying to get at for purposes of this post is that there are times in our lives when internal changes arise and we can’t explain why or what, exactly, the difference is. We only recognize the symptoms of change: a new interest in something or an alteration in our priorities when nothing about our immediate situation has prompted such. Transformations such as these are exciting and terrifying because we don’t know what will follow, but it is the mysterious forces behind unexpected change that intrigue me far more. What is at work here? What else might be called into play? What tools am I lacking to detect and understand these forces? It’s a bit like the misnomer of junk DNA—there is no such thing, but researchers called it that, initially, because they lacked the capacity to understand what it was.

 

As re-booters, we may be more attuned than others to internal change, and some of these conversions may make no sense when we think about them. In a world where we’re always trying to define and encapsulate our experience, the temptation to dismiss such change reflects either fear or the same dearth of tools that confront researchers today when exploring epigenetics.

 

This is only food for thought, but it’s useful to keep in mind…

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4 Responses to “Epigenetics and Mysterious Influences”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    love this post! I know exactly what you mean…it is the most exciting of moments when we realize that sort of internal change has happened!

  2. The Human Biological Machine | The Epigenetics Project Blog Says:

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  3. Food for Thought | The Epigenetics Project Blog Says:

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  4. Food for Thought! | The Epigenetics Project Blog Says:

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