Did you know that your environment and what you eat can affect your genetic expression, and even that of your descendents? This also means that what your grandparents ate may affect you today. The reason is the epigenome.
It is like the software to DNA’s hardware, and is comprised of chemical marks and switches that lie along the length of the double helix and help turn the expression of certain genes on or off. Researcher Randy Jirtle discusses new data that indicate that the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer is influenced by persistent adaptations to prenatal and early postnatal nutrition.
He also relates that genetic imprinting is an unusual form of epigenetic gene regulation that evolved 150 million years ago in mammals, along with the development of the placenta. This means that only a single genetic or epigenetic event is required to alter the function of an imprinted gene. This helps explain the role that genomic imprinting plays in the genesis of human diseases and behavioral disorders.
Jirtle is a visiting professor at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.