Team Gene: Nature vs. Nurture, an Epigenetic Battle!

Image by Randy Jirtle and Dana Dolinoy

Epigenetics is a field of study focused on alterations in gene expression that do not involve changes on the underlying DNA sequence.

Although your genome remains fixed, whether certain genes are expressed or not can be altered by environmental factors. For example, an epigenetic factor called a methyl group, which is found in some foods, can tag DNA, causing activation or repression of certain genes.

For example, some mice have a gene called the Agouti gene, which, when activated, causes a yellow coat, as well as a propensity towards obesity and other diseases. This gene is dominant, so a female mouse with a homozygous allele for Agouti should always pass on the gene to her pups. However, scientists found that changing a pregnant Agouti mouse’s diet and exposure to certain toxins, resulted in a suppression in the expression of this gene in her pups.

Epigenetics also play a part in certain human diseases, including diabetic complications, development of depression, as well as development of certain cancers.

On the other hand certain behaviors can result in positive epigenetic changes. For example in a study of twins, the twin who exercised more was shown to have epigenetic marks linked to lowered metabolic syndrome, a condition that plays a part in the development of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

So if you’ve ever been asked whether you believe human behavior is governed by nature or nurture, epigenetics certainly prove that both are in play! But this is a competition… so you must choose! Nature or nurture, who shall reign victorious? Pick your team and let this very scientific method of discovery play out!

The competition starts at 11:00 AM ET on 5/22 and goes for 48 hours! Bonus information is detailed in your notifications.

Swag: The top scoring player on the winning team wins the choice of a notebook or a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.