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Epigenetics – How Environment and Personal Choices Can Influence Genetic Code

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What if your personal choices can alter your DNA for future generations?  TIME Magazine published an article this month, “Why DNA Isn’t Your Destiny” that discusses just that.  A new science of epigenetics, founded by years of research and data collected by Dr. Lars Olov Bygren, a preventive-health specialist who is now at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm,  reveals how the choices you make can change your genes and those of your kids.

“Bygren and other scientists have now amassed historical evidence suggesting that powerful environmental conditions (near death from starvation, for instance) can somehow leave an imprint on the genetic material in eggs and sperm. These genetic imprints can short-circuit evolution and pass along new traits in a single generation.”

What does this mean for childhood developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD?  The Epigenome could offer some insight:
“More recently, however, researchers have begun to realize that epigenetics could also help explain certain scientific mysteries that traditional genetics never could: for instance, why one member of a pair of identical twins can develop bipolar disorder or asthma even though the other is fine. Or why autism strikes boys four times as often as girls.”
An important thing to note is that epigenetic changes are not permanent in the sense that they cause evolutionary changes. But rather, they are responses to environmental stressors that can be reverted upon removal of those stressors.
“Can epigenetic changes be permanent? Possibly, but it’s important to remember that epigenetics isn’t evolution. It doesn’t change DNA. Epigenetic changes represent a biological response to an environmental stressor. That response can be inherited through many generations via epigenetic marks, but if you remove the environmental pressure, the epigenetic marks will eventually fade, and the DNA code will — over time — begin to revert to its original programming. That’s the current thinking, anyway: that only natural selection causes permanent genetic change.”
Read more at TIME.com:  Epigenetics, DNA: How You Can Change Your Genes, Destiny
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