Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fast Evolution Virus

Before you understand any of this you should probably Google the word epigenetics. It's very complex, much more so then I could properly describe, but the gist of it is that all of your DNA has the potential to be turned off by a process known as methalation.

The determining factor in what genes are methalated is a nurture effect, and as it happens a hereditary effect. This means a lot of things, but first and foremost it means that nurture is beating nature for the first time in a long time. It also means you can hereditarily pass learned traits, which means that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was right.

So, there's a lot of things about epigenetics that inspire/terrify me. First and foremost the decay of methalation as you age may be the cause for any number of things. Cancer, for example. Also Alzheimers. Studies, case studies not thorough experiments, have shown epigenetic repairs to be an effective treatment for lukemia in that one case they were studying. If these problems that arise with age are due to deteriorating methalation patterns, maybe the other effects of aging are also related to deteriorating methalation. Will the pattern repair substance serve as an elixer of youth? Or some kind of super cure?

The other thing, and this one has much less basis, is that the way your body reacts to certain chemicals changes over time. I don't know why, and I haven't done thorough research as to why, but what if it's methalation? A functional change in DNA would definitely explain a lot. If it is we could tell your body that it's in a different phase of its life. Infant like regenerative abilities, pubescent like reactions to alteration hormones, etc. The possible effects here are mostly cosmetic, but it's still a fascinating area of study.

The reason I'm terrified is also quite simple. Pesticides have been shown to screw up methalation in mice. These screw ups are then passed on, in what ranks pretty high on the list of horrible experimetns done with mice. The problem is that it might be the same in humans. Your exposure to pesticides in foods may be damaging your epigenetics, and may be making all of your descendents more prone to a host of horrible destructive conditions. As they're further exposed they will pass on even more damage. The last generation of humans may only be five or ten away.

Theres... a lot I could say about a lot of things. It's amazing, and may doom us all, or save us all. Which, in the end, is more or less status quo for science.


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