epigenetics

Causes of obesity are not as simple as a lack of exercise or overindulging. It has been known for some time that a predisposition for obesity has been linked to certain genes, however, specific mechanisms have been more difficult to elucidate. 

Some changes in our DNA, called mutations, alter the sequence of the bases in our DNA which can result in changing a trait or a disease. Other changes in our DNA - epigenetic changes (changes to our DNA that do not have to do with the sequence of bases) - can lead to the same result without the DNA sequence being changed. In this process, DNA gets marked with epigenetic 'tags' that can make the DNA alter its conformation. The result is that genes are expressed more or less which has an effect on the amount of proteins that they produce...

Undoubtedly, you have heard dozens of pieces of advice, telling you how to lead a healthier and potentially longer life. You know you have - even if you don't follow them: exercise and sleep more, eat less, but add in more fiber and vegetables, etc. The list goes on and on. 

And, perhaps like most things, those same messages have grown tiresome over the years. Because people like Sara Gottfried keep taking the old standards, repackaging and reselling them (in hardcover.) She re-gifts them, so to speak.

And, that would be fine if it were not based on a premise that does not exist - that we know how to turn our genes off or on (or 'reset' them, as she says) through our activities. But, who cares if the scientific community is lagging behind her advice when there are books...

My pregnant mom - while caring for her ill father - got a call her grandfather died.  She started to shake uncontrollably as her water broke.  Shortly thereafter, out I came  - nearly a month before I was due.

The upsetting news induced a physiologic reaction.  Current science supports this conclusion as the paradigm is ever-shifting to recognize the strong link between environment in prenatal life and health outcomes that span the spectrum into adulthood.

The film IN UTERO, directed by Kathleen Gyllenhaal, aptly articulates my battle cry after over a decade of pediatric practice.  Though intended to speak to the perils of...

Epigenetics via Shutterstock Epigenetics via Shutterstock

The scientific community reacted quite negatively to an article written by Siddhartha Mukherjee in The New Yorker where he was subsequently accused of oversimplifying epigenetics. This topic has generated a great deal of attention by scientists and the public.

But, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about this relatively new topic, which is exemplified by the ...

Epigenetics via Shutterstock Epigenetics via Shutterstock

Lately it seems that you cannot have a discussion about epigenetics without realizing that you have stepped on a proverbial land mine. Case in point is the recent controversial article by Siddhartha Mukherjee in the New Yorker magazine and his arguably overly simplistic explanation of epigenetics.

Epigenetics, in short, is the “study of heritable traits that don’t...

Stem cell research via Shutterstock Stem cell research via Shutterstock

In most sports  defensive players usually attempt to surround an offensive player — forcing her to back into her own side of the field.  This is the general principle of a new drug that researchers at the University of Michigan have developed – one that block mouse cells’ ability to differentiate (become specialized) and thus force them to...