It was late Wednesday night, and I, in my unfortunately developed routine, was up at 2:00 am wanting to go to sleep, but still wide awake. So, plodding through the internet, I came across this amazingly captivating documentary The Ghost in Your Genes.
The Ghost in Your Genes is a documentary about the groundbreaking new field of epigenetics. Wikipedia defines epigenetics as referring to heritable traits that have had changes in “phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations.” As there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave or “express themselves'” differently.
In other words, epigenetics proposes that genes are not as static and one dimensional, as was once believed. It suggests that not only does traditional molecular DNA inheritace effect human characteristics, health, and personality, but that environmental factors effect human traits and health, as well, by modifying the way the inherited DNA chromosomes function. It also suggests that these epigenetic modifications can last generations past the environmental experience which caused the alteration. This implies, simply, that how our ancestors lived, ate, and even argued is directly influencing our health and psychology today.
The Ghost in Your Genes (Horizon 2005)
The scientists who believe your genes are shaped in part by your ancestors’ life experiences.
Note: This original documentary was broadcast in 2005 on the BBC. PBS NOVA has aired an updated version on October 16, 2007, which has new scientists and new data, and which is worth the watch.
See the updated NOVA version here.