Epigenetics Simply Explained
Start writing a post
Education

Epigenetics For Dummies

Cracking the code of epigenetics will be world-changing!

2161
dna strand

Despite my biology seminar being the most stressful class of my fall semester and not being interested in 90% of the things I was learning, that lone 10% taught me some mind-blowing stuff about not just genetics, but also epigenetics. I remember the day my professor began teaching us about epigenetics; I'm pretty sure my mouth was open in shock the entire time. Ever since then, I have been overwhelmingly fascinated by epigenetics and its potential in all fields of science, but especially within the mental health field and oncology. In fact, it's what I want to study and research for the rest of my life! Now, that's enough of me gushing about science. Let's get into the facts and information (aka let's geek the heck out, my fellow science nerds).

Okay, before I begin explaining epigenetics, I should probably explain plain old genetics. Genetics put simply, is what makes us who we are; it is the study of inherited characteristics or genes. Genes are made up of a fancy schmancy double-helix containing a certain order of A, T, C, and G (nucleotide bases) called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which basically acts as a master code for all of your genes. This code is used for making molecules and controlling the many chemical reactions of life. It's crazy, isn't it?! (Click here to read more about genetics.)

Without epigenetics, all 20,000-25,000 genes within the human genome (all DNA contained in an organism or a cell) would be activated. Now obviously, that would be REAL bad because then all of our cells would be the same; we wouldn't have lung cells, heart cells, brain cells, etc. because there would be nothing differing them. However, my fellow nerds, that's where epigenetics comes in!

I figured that me just describing the process would be REALLY confusing, so I put a picture in as well to help you visualize it!

Epigenetics, when broken down, literally means "on top of genes," and it is the study of gene expression. Quite frankly, epigenetics is what controls our genes because it turns certain genes on (become active) and off (become dormant). If a gene is dormant, it means that proteins that read DNA cannot access the gene because the DNA is wound too tightly around the proteins (so the proteins are right next to each other, basically touching), making it unreachable.

If a gene is active, the DNA is not wrapped as tightly around the proteins, so the proteins are more spread out, which exposes the gene. So before you lose your mind, your literal genes are not being altered, their ability to be accessed is. You're probably thinking, "BUT LIKE HOW DOES IT DO THE THING?" and let me tell you, that's how I was. Get ready to be blown away, people.

Alright, so our DNA isn't just chilling in a long line or in a crumpled ball; DNA is wrapped around this cool protein called "histone." On these proteins, there are these weird looking things called histone tails, which act as receptors to chemical reactions (acetylation, deacetylation, methylation, demethylation, etc.), known as epigenetic modifications. When modifications come along, The "writer" enzymes add the modifications to the histone tails. Then, proteins called "readers" bind to the modifications to alter the activity of the gene accordingly. Lastly, the "eraser" enzymes come along and remove the histone modifications after they are read.

https://www.zenithepigenetics.com/programs/what-is...

Now you're probably wondering where the heck these modifications are coming from, and the answer is simple but complicated: everywhere. These modifications are the result of environmental influences, and I don't just mean trees, grass, and/or flowers. Environmental influences include, but are not limited to:

-nature

-your diet

-how much you exercise

-what types of exercising you do

-where you live

-the people you interact with

-parenting

-where you sleep

-aging

-smoking

-drinking

-air pollution

It blows my mind, people, how much the outer world alters our inner world. But also, not just this. If scientists can figure out how to manually alter genetic expression, it would lead to breakthroughs in cures for cancer and mental illnesses, and other illnesses and diseases in general. When the epigenetic code is cracked, the results are going to be groundbreaking and miraculous.

Just imagining all the people that epigenetics can help absolutely astounds me, and I can't wait to help my fellow science nerds crack the epigenetic code.

* * *

Articles for further reading:

https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenet...

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/02/brea...

https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/


Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
How to Use Your Passion for Writing to Complete Academic Essays

Academic paper writing is often considered one of the most dreaded parts of college for students. Most people hate it, even if they are into writing in general. Many students feel like it puts them into a box where no creative expression is possible. Like having to use a more formal tone of voice and thinking about referencing restricts one’s flow of thought.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How Long Would It Take To Mine A Bitcoin?

No one will give you the correct answer to this question because there are a lot of details that they need to know. But, you can roughly estimate it based on the equipment you have a few more factors. One thing that needs to be mentioned is that mining has changed a lot over the years.

52635
Mine A Bitcoin

they need to know. But, you can roughly estimate it based on the equipment you have a few more factors. One thing that needs to be mentioned is that mining has changed a lot over the years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

5 Cakes You Need to Try This Winter

Spending the winter trying different cakes can be a great way to combat seasonal depression. Lift the spirits of your entire family by trying these five cakes.

53554
Try This Winter

The winter can be a dull time spent indoors with very little change. But, it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to spice up your daily routine, and dessert is one of them.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

5 Reasons to Consider a Career as a Defense Lawyer

Lawyers are supposed to be unbiased. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue and give equal weight to each side. It is meant to be their mantra, "My client is innocent until proven guilty."

117831
Career as a Defense Lawyer

Lawyers are supposed to be unbiased. Lawyers are trained to look at both sides of an issue and give equal weight to each side. It is meant to be their mantra, "My client is innocent until proven guilty." But if you're thinking about becoming a defense attorney, it's not this pretty simple. Defense lawyers argue that their clients are innocent because they don't want their actions to seem suspect in any way. They essentially say for the sake of the argument itself. If you're trying to decide whether or not becoming a defense attorney is something you would like to do, here are five reasons why it's worth considering:

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

What Everyone Should Know About Online Degrees

Nowadays, many working adults, high school graduates, and retired lifelong learners are choosing to advance their careers, lives, and personal knowledge by completing school at home.

210119
Online Degrees

The rising popularity of online college and graduate school degrees has completely changed the face of education and student life. It's no longer necessary to pack up all your belongings and head off to a distant locale in order to earn a diploma. Nowadays, many working adults, high school graduates, and retired lifelong learners are choosing to advance their careers, lives, and personal knowledge by completing school at home.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments