Today in class we had a lecture about CRISPR and genetics in general, and one point that was mentioned regarded epigenetics, which I found interesting. I learned a little bit about this subject in freshman biology, and it’s enthralling that our genome can be change just based on how we live our lives.
I decided to do some research on epigenetics, and found out that what causes “epigenetic changes” are certain compounds are added to certain parts of the genome, and these compounds inhibit/regulate these parts. The epigenome (everything added to the genome) does this by utilizing several chemical groups to either tightly coil or unravel certain parts of the genome. The tightly coiled sequences are harder to read, thus inhibiting protein production for that specific area. The looser sequences are easier to read, allowing that protein to be actively produced. DNA methylation is the process of placing methyl groups (one type of chemical group) along the specific gene to inhibit it.
Examples of how our environment/lifestyle affects our epigenome is through diet. If you were vegetarian, for example, you would probably have a harder time digesting meat due to the fact you rarely eat it. In this case, the epigenome responds to your diet and inhibits a part of the genome that processes meat. The epigenome can also cause genetic disorders, for example, cancer. Cancer cells can be too active (less methyl groups) and cause high cell growth and more instable DNA processes. They can also be too tightly coiled leading to genes that inhibit cell growth regulation, DNA repair, and cell death. Our epigenome can be passed down through generations, affecting your children and beyond.
(visualization of a gene loosely coiled, allowing the gene to produce proteins)
(visualization of a gene tightly coiled, inhibiting the gene’s protein production)
I feel that epigenetics illustrate that it’s always important to live a healthy and satisfying life. Being stressed and making bad decisions actually takes a toll on not only your genetic code, but your family as well.
Works Cited Gene Control, learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/control/. The Epigenome at a Glance, learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/intro/. “What Is Epigenetics? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/epigenome.