It’s Not All In The Genes
You share a lot of similarities with your parents. It could be your height, eye color, hair texture, or behavioral patterns. That’s called “Heredity.” But are you exactly the spitting image of your parents? While there are many features that you have in common with your parents, many other characteristics make you completely different from them. This is called “Variation.” These two terms- heredity and variation, together constitute your Genetics.
Genetics provide a lot of insight into how we are, the way we are, right from the basic level of DNA and genes. But genetics did not explain everything. There are still some questions that remain unanswered. As it is already in the genetics of human beings to observe, question, and find answers, we went beyond genetics and found Epigenetics!
A step above genetics
Epigenetics is the key that unlocked the doors to new pathways into our very own existence. While genetics focused on what was going on within us, epigenetics looked beyond them and studied the effects of environment and our lifestyle patterns, had on us, or specifically, on our genes.
Changes occurring at the genetic levels constitute your genotype and that which is visible in your external appearance constitutes your phenotype. Epigenetics is the change in your phenotype, without a change in your genotype. Hence the term “epi-genetics” which means, “above-genetics.” Keep this meaning in your mind whenever you hear the term epigenetics.
Let’s learn some fun science!
It is absolutely a wonder of nature, that a change that doesn’t change our genes can still change us! So how do epigenetic changes occur? There are many ways the process of epigenetics takes place in your body.
Disclaimer: Scientific terms coming up!
The major processes taking place during epigenetic modifications are:
- DNA methylation
- Chromatin remodeling
- Histone modifications
- Non-coding RNA mechanisms
If you are interested in knowing serious science, go ahead and do your bit of research on them. But if you want to know the fun and simple part of it, then here goes:
Imagine, you are holding your friend’s hand, who’s holding another friend’s hand, and so on, and you have made a chain, a human chain. Consider that each of you is a gene connected to the gene next to you. If anything happens to these connections, say, one of your friends leaves your hand or leaves the chain, or a new friend joins, a change occurs. Such changes are the ones that will change your genotype.
Let us take another scenario. All of you are still maintaining the chain but now you are given a backpack. No connection has been broken, no one has left or joined, but a change occurred, only in your appearance. Now that change is your phenotype. Simply put, a change in your phenotype without a change in your genotype - that’s epigenetics for you. All those scientific terms above are nothing but the backpacks added on to you.
How and when these backpacks are added to you depends on several factors, majorly your exposure to the environment and lifestyle. It means, from minute things like dust and pollution in the place you live to the food and beverages that go in through your diet, they all can influence your epigenetics in multiple ways. By making the right changes to these factors, you can control your epigenetics and that of your coming generations too.
MapMyGenome’s genetic counseling
At MapMyGenome, we have a team of Board Certified genetic counselors who are skillful and empathetic. They educate about the importance of genomic testing, the options available, and its benefits. They give you the expertise, guidance, and emotional support before and after the genetic test.
Genetic Counselors empower patients and their families with the information, guidance, and emotional support to help them understand their family history, evaluate genetic testing options, and make informed choices based on test results.
If you want to improve your quality of life with help of preventive genomic tests, genetic counselors can help you understand health patterns and guide you in choosing the right genetic test.