December 19, 2015 – Don’t Blame Grandma Yet, But Your Asthma May Be Her Fault
It’s natural to wonder if your environment is changing you. It’s no secret that smoking and pesticides are bad for your lungs and that exercise is good for your heart. But these things may actually change the function of our genes in ways that can be passed on to our children and grandchildren.
Enter epigenetics, a bridge for this burning question of nature versus nurture.
While genetics typically refers to the physical structure of DNA, epigenetics is a process. Epigenetics describes how environmental factors like stress, environmental toxins and nutrition can alter our DNA, the production of proteins and ultimately how a cell behaves. Unlike a genetic mutation, which adds or deletes DNA building blocks, an epigenetic change ornaments the building blocks of DNA. And those ornaments may have profound consequences on a life’s trajectory, especially if they happen early in development. But unlike a genetic mutation, which is permanent, an epigenetic shift is reversible.