Annotations for Epigenetics : The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance
Baker & Taylor
Discusses how scientific evidence is increasingly showing a link between the stress of the environment on an individual and the seemingly inherited traits of his or her subsequent generations.
Baker & Taylor
Discusses how scientific evidence is increasingly showing a link between the stress of the environment on an individual and the seemingly inherited traits of his or her subsequent generations. By the author of Why Men Won't Ask for Directions.
The burgeoning new science of epigenetics offers a cornucopia of insights, some comforting, some frightening, into how we become who we are. Consider the fetal environment. We all know that it is important, but before the advent of epigenetics we were only scratching the surface of the mystery within. For example, the male fetus may be especially vulnerable to certain common chemicals in our environment, in ways that damage not only his own sperm but also the sperm of his sons. How could these chemicals have such persistent effects? Because of the way they affect his genes, not through mutations but through other means called "epigenetic." These epigenetic effects alter gene "behavior" without changing the genetic code. Such changes in gene behavior can last a lifetime and, sometimes, beyond.
It is environmentally induced epigenetic differences that cause identical twins to vary widely in their susceptibility to, for example, dementia and cancer. But here's the good news: unlike mutations, epigenetic effects are reversible. Indeed, epigenetic engineering is the future of medicine. Because we now know that cancer is as much an epigenetic as a genetic disease, recent epigenetic research holds tremendous promise for targeted, noninvasive cancer therapies and earlier diagnosis.
Stem-cell research is where we are likely to see the most important and exciting applications of epigenetics. Stem cells are special because of their epigenetic, not genetic, properties. For this reason we are now much closer to answering perhaps the hardest question in all of science: how does a hollow ball of identical stem cells become a person?
Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance is the first book for general readers on this fascinating and important subject. Richard C. Francis makes the science understandable through stories that feature the Dutch famine of World War II, Jose Canseco and steroids, George Washington and the breeding of mules, X-women, nonidentical identical twins, a gorilla with poor parenting skills, the obesity epidemic, guinea pigs that refuse to obey Mendel's laws, and Tasmanian devils suffering from a contagious cancer.
A writer with a PhD in neurobiology explains why "identical" twins can have different risks for health problems, how the effects of famine can be inherited across generations, and the dynamics of the breeding of hybrid animals. Francis presents an interesting, accessible introduction to epigenetics, a new field that studies how the environment (prenatal, social, and chemical stressors) can have long-term physiological and behavioral effects through regulating genes. He explains how this process offers promise for understanding development and obesity, and treating cancer. Annotation ¬©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"The potential is staggering. . . . The age of epigenetics has arrived."--Time, January 2010
Epigenetic means "on the gene," and the term refers to the recent discovery that stress in the environment can impact an individual's physiology so deeply that those biological scars are actually inherited by the next several generations. For instance, a recent study has shown that men who started smoking before puberty caused their sons to have significantly higher rates of obesity. And obesity is just the tip of the iceberg--many researchers believe that epigenetics holds the key to understanding cancer, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism, and diabetes.
Epigenetics is the first book for general readers on this fascinating and important topic. The book is driven by stories such as the Dutch famine of World War II, Josť Canseco and steroids, the breeding of mules and hinnies, Tazmanian devils and contagious cancer, and more.
Time to worry again--our lifestyle choices do impact our genetic code and that of our children (and even grandchildren!).