Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist:
Fate"] Darwin and Freud walk into a bar. Two alcoholic mice — a mother and her son — sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles. For over a hundred years, those two views — nature or nurture, biology or psychology — offered opposing explanations for how behaviors develop and persist, not only within a single individual but across generations.
Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, had never studied psychology or neurology, but he had been talked into attending by a colleague who thought his work might have some application.
Moshe can drink beer anywhere. So it was perfect. One such extra element is the methyl group, a common structural component of organic molecules. Originally these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. But pioneering studies showed that molecular bric-a-brac could be added to DNA in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes resulting in cancer.
Sometimes methyl groups attached to DNA thanks to changes in diet; other times, exposure to certain chemicals appeared to be the cause. Szyf showed that correcting epigenetic changes with drugs could cure certain cancers in animals.
Geneticists were especially surprised to find that epigenetic change could be passed down from parent to child, one generation after the next.
A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered.
Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like a mutation in a gene.
Moshe Szyf, molecular biologist and geneticist. McGill University Now, at the bar in Madrid, Szyf and Meaney considered a hypothesis as improbable as it was profound: That question turned out to be the basis of a new field, behavioral epigenetics, now so vibrant it has spawned dozens of studies and suggested profound new treatments to heal the brain.
Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.
Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten.
They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support.
The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too. And for those unlucky enough to descend from miserable or withholding grandparents, emerging drug treatments could reset not just mood, but the epigenetic changes themselves.
Shake it hard enough, and you can wipe clean the family curse. A January storm has deposited half a foot of snow outside the picture windows lining his fourth-floor corner office at the Douglas Institute, a mental health affiliate of McGill.
He has the rugged good looks and tousled salt-and-pepper hair of someone found on a ski slope — precisely where he plans to go this weekend. On the floor lies an arrangement of helium balloons in various stages of deflation.Cloning.
In biology, the activity of cloning creates a copy of some biological entity such as a gene, a cell, or perhaps an entire organism. This article discusses the biological, historical, and moral aspects of cloning mammals.
The main area of concentration is the moral dimensions of reproductive cloning, specifically the use of cloning in order to procreate. 1 Transmissible Cancer Group, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
2 Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham, UK. 3 Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. 4 The Palaeogenomics and Bio.
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