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Twin Study: Environment Trumps Genetics

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posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 09:56 AM
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The study found identical twins had different levels of pain sensitivity, resulting from epigenetic (not genetic) changes. Epigenetic mechanisms create "bridges" between the environment and DNA, interpret the "genetic code" and regulate gene expression. Rapidly accumulating evidence shows epigenetic factors are more important than genetic ones, and virtually all the latest medical breakthroughs have to do with Epigenetics - the new Holy Grail in medicine.


Our pain sensitivity could be changed by lifestyle and environment influences throughout life....

Researchers used 25 pairs of identical twins in the U.K. to look for "epigenetic" differences in the expression of a gene associated with pain tolerance to heat. They said the findings in Tuesday’s issue of the journal Nature Communications could guide the search for better pain relief treatments for people with chronic pain.

"Epigenetic switching is like a dimmer switch for gene expression," said study author Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London.

…….the researchers said they found a pain sensitivity gene, called TRPA1, can be switched on and off through chemical changes at an epigenetic level.


Epigenetic factors react to external stimuli and form bridges between the environment and the genetic information-harboring DNA.

Epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in the final interpretation of the encoded genetic information by regulating gene expression....




posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 10:15 AM
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as someone who suffers from chronic pain, this is of interest to me. my problem is damaged muscles that are pretty much in constant spasm. now when they ran tests to figure out my problem they told me i HAVE a "high tolerance for pain". the tests included sending electric shocks through several parts of my body to test the nerves, then sticking probes into my body to test the muscles. both are quite painful, but for me they were much less than what i can face all day for days at a time. so what could something like this do for me? already having a high pain tolerance, would this even help? but another possibly more serious question, is something like this even a good idea? if didn't feel the pain wouldn't i be likely to do even more damage to the muscles?



posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 10:24 AM
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reply to post by generik
 


....already having a high pain tolerance, would this even help? but another possibly more serious question, is something like this even a good idea? if didn't feel the pain wouldn't i be likely to do even more damage to the muscles?


As you say, your issue isn't pain sensitivity, it's muscle damage - so no, neither these particular epigenetic markers nor the potential treatments apply to your problem. Pain sensitivity has to do with nerve receptors - your problem likely has more to do with muscle cells. At some point, epigenetic therapies might be able to repair damaged muscle cells, but this isn't it.



posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 10:45 AM
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Just to be clear, identical twins share 100% of their genes - so differences result from gene expression (which results from environmental influences).


Unlike non-identical twins, who on average share only 50% of their genes, identical twins share 100%. So it follows that any differences in gene expression must result from processes that act on those genes, such as epigenetics, which can come through differences in environment and lifestyles. This makes identical twins ideal subjects for studying the effects of epigenetics.

Epigenetic change is a 'dimmer switch' for gene expression

One of the study's corresponding authors, Tim Spector, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King's College London, says:

"Epigenetic switching is like a dimmer switch for gene expression. This landmark study shows how identical twins, when combined with the latest technology to look at millions of epigenetic signals, can be used to find the small chemical switches in our genes that make us all unique - and in this case respond to pain differently."



posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 11:02 AM
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This makes a lot of sense when you think about it because environment (pollutants, toxins, what you put in your body, etc) can effect and alter genetics that end up getting passed down to the next generation.

Maybe this is how diseases originally develop and get passed on through the gene pool in families (ie: hereditary diseases) ? Perhaps it's actually environmental impact/alteration rather than a sudden malfunctioning gene code ?

This study seems to demonstrate that idea quite nicely.
edit on 28-2-2014 by CranialSponge because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 12:06 PM
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reply to post by CranialSponge
 


Epigenetic inheritance is NOT genetic inheritance - DNA is not affected. The cool thing? Epigenetic inheritance may allow an organism to continually adjust its gene expression to fit its environment - without changing its DNA code.



Some epigenetic tags remain in place as genetic information passes from generation to generation, a process called epigenetic inheritance.

Epigenetic inheritance is an unconventional finding. It goes against the idea that inheritance happens only through the DNA code that passes from parent to offspring. It means that a parent's experiences, in the form of epigenetic tags, can be passed down to future generations.

As unconventional as it may be, there is little doubt that epigenetic inheritance is real. In fact, it explains some strange patterns of inheritance geneticists have been puzzling over for decades.


….epigenetic changes are transient by nature. That is, the epigenome changes more rapidly than the relatively fixed DNA code. An epigenetic change that was triggered by environmental conditions may be reversed when environmental conditions change again.

Implications for Evolution

Epigenetic inheritance adds another dimension to the modern picture of evolution. The genome changes slowly, through the processes of random mutation and natural selection. It takes many generations for a genetic trait to become common in a population. The epigenome, on the other hand, can change rapidly in response to signals from the environment. And epigenetic changes can happen in many individuals at once. Through epigenetic inheritance, some of the experiences of the parents may pass to future generations. At the same time, the epigenome remains flexible as environmental conditions continue to change. Epigenetic inheritance may allow an organism to continually adjust its gene expression to fit its environment - without changing its DNA code.



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