In this episode, Stacy and Sarah talk about epigenetics and how gene expression can be affected by different lifestyle stresses and factors.
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The Paleo View (TPV), Episode 277: Epigenetics, Adoption, and Turning Genes On and Off
- News and Views (0:41)
- This is a topic that made Sarah really excited! This is fascinating science stuff!
- Last year, Stacy’s mom, who is adopted, tracked down her family using genetic tests from 23andMe and Ancestry.com
- She found her father, two full sisters and four half siblings! So crazy!
- Unfortunately, Stacy and her mom also found that cancer runs very prevalent in her family.
- And Stacy’s mom found that her full sisters were really similar to her, even in minor things like interests and hobbies and laughter.
- Stacy was fascinated by this article about epigenetics and adoption and gave it to Sarah.
- Epigenetics is the system where the body turns on or off or alters genes without actually changing DNA. There are a variety of ways that this can happen like stress, trauma, lifestyle, diet, environment, etc. And it’s also heritable.
- Discover magazine article: “Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes”
- These epigenetic signals control a variety of things like inflammation, insulin sensitivity, neurotransmitter regulation.
- The emotional experiences around adoption can cause epigenetic changes in the brain.
- Discovery came out of experiments on nature vs. nurture. They found that rats that were groomed more by their mothers were more resilient to stress. But then they found that this was caused by epigenetic changes in cortisol pathways. They then tested the theory by switching mothers and found that the epigenetics changed for the inattentive mothers’ babies.
- It’s not nature vs. nurture; its nature affects nurture affects nature!
- The theory goes now that the stress of being adopted affects epigenetics, but the new nurturing environment could reverse any damage. Adoptive parents would best be served by taking that into account and be sure of providing nurturing touch and love.
- Thousands of epigenetic changes are made in childhood that could affect the adult life
- Some companies are working on developing an epigenetic “clean slate” to reset epigenetic markers for people adversely affected by epigenetic problems.
- This might be harmful to some, but also could help people affected by depression, addiction, phobias and other severe challenges.
- Epigenetic changes could affect three generations thanks to epigenetics: stress to the mother affects the fetus, whose eggs are also developing, affecting the grandchild!
- Evolutionarily, these epigenetic changes make sense: they provide very quick change to the genetic presentation without waiting for generations for natural selection to select.
- We know that certain things are bad for epigenetic control: overeating, nutrient deficiency, stress, famine, etc.
- Stacy has noticed that snuggling her children is very good for them and her.
- The three-generation inheritance means that grandchildren of holocaust survivors are still affected by the holocaust!
- They have found that it is definitely in childhood that makes the most epigenetic difference: you are much more affected by poor socioeconomic status in childhood than adulthood, for example.
- Some epigenetic controls are inherited, but some are wiped clean between generations.
- Sarah’s NOVA special on Epigenetics.
- Two types of chemicals are epigenetic controls: Methyl groups turn off genes, Acetyl groups turn them on. So how is this affected in people with MTHFR mutations?
- This whole field of study is going to be explored more and more in the coming years and we’ll know so much more about how to control all this stuff!
- Stacy is often wondering how her lifestyle might have affected Cole when she was pregnant with him during a more chaotic time in her life.
- Sarah says these discoveries are evidence that we need to FUND MORE BASIC SCIENCE EXPLORATION!
- Next week: An exciting guest!
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- Outro (52:06)