FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Epigenetics is defined as gene changes that does not change DNA, or more simply an expression of how a body is interacting with an environment. Ashley May, a naturopathic Doctor, was the speaker at Tuesday's Healthy Living Lecture Series held at UAF. He says these genetic expressions explain why twins are different. Despite overwhelming DNA similarities, responses to the environment change genes and in turn the subject. Epigentics also explains why multiple bees are fed royal jelly, but only one can become the queen.
The most studied version of gene response is a process called methylation, which is when a carbon and three hydrogen, atoms are added to a gene.
"It'll silence the expression of that particular gene, so if that gene is," said May. "Say a bad gene, a cancer gene, it'll suppress the or silence the expression of that gene."
Although methylation can turn good genes off, it is believed the more the body has, the better an individual's health is overall.
The body's genes are affected by many different factors from nutrition, to water intake, to sleeping. Too much stress on the body can change gene responses, and turn off important segments of DNA. By improving the wellness of ones body, it improves ones gene response. Even a person's attitude can change their genes.
"Science sounds a little "woo woo" to begin with, but we're seeing the evidence of that play out in research," began May. We know optimistic people live on average about 11 years longer then pessimistic people. That's a big difference there."
May says that even though gene responses do not change DNA, it can override the markers someone has.
"With your DNA you have these parameters of what's possible for you health wise," stated May "With epigenetic changes, you can change the expression of some of those genes that you've gotten passed on from your mother and father and previous ancestors."
May also says gene responses can be passed down from generation to generation, just like DNA itself.