about Epigenetics

Learn more about Epigenetics

About Epigenetics:

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. As far what causes such modification of gene expression, Biologists have explored a wide range of factors, both enviornmental and developmental in nature that explain such instances. Enviornment factors include dietary habits, stress levels and exposure to toxins amongst others, while developmental factors include natural ageing and cellullar differentiation as the most common causes. 

However, are any of these changes that the field of Epigenetics studies actually harmful to the organism? The answer is that it depends, as some modifications on gene expression such as changes in DHA methylation patterns and histone alterations are correlated with increases suceptibility to diseases like cancer, sialorrhea, dysphagia, gastroparesis and diarrhea. With that said, understanding Epigenetics and the molecular basis of any organism’s genetic code can bring us closer to treating these diseases, especially cancer.

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A brief history 

The field of Epigenetics was formally recognized back in the early 20th century when Conrad Waddington, who was a British developmental biologist, proposed the idea of an epigenetic landscape that informed the differentiation of cells. Intruiged by Conrad’s proposition, researchers began exploring this landscape in the mid 1900s, soon to uncover the molecular foundations of Epigenetics, including the discovery of DNA methylation and the role of histones in controlling gene expression. However, it was not until a few decades later that the term “Epigenetics” was coined and became widely used to describe the study of heritable changes in gene expression that occur throughout an individual’s development.  

Fast forwarding a few more decades and we find ourselves here today where technological advances have allowed researchers to study epigenetic modifications on a  genome-wide scale. This has led to a remarkable number of discoveries, causing the field of Epigenetics to explode with research opportunity towards medicine, developmental  biology and evolutionary biology.

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Does our understanding of epigenetics inform psychotherapy?

Given that Epigenetics is a relatively fresh research field with many potential applications in different medical fields, psychotherapy is sure to be one of them. In fact, Epigenetic researchers and some of the best therapists in London have started to collaborate on drawing more precise explanations for different psychological phenomenons. 

For instance, several psychotherapy in London have started to entertain the idea that early life experiences and trauma can lead to changes in gene expression through epigenetic modifications. This ties in with the fact that some people are more susceptible to mental health disorders than others which could provide new avenues for treatment modifications and avenues. Speaking of treatment, researchers are also investigating the efficacy of psychotherapautic treatments wtih respect to positive changes in gene expression. For instance, a recent study found that meditation could lead to changes in gene expression that were associated with reduced inflammation and improved immune function. 

In conclusion, inter-disciplinary research endeavors between Epigenetics and Psychology have the potential to completely redefine how we think about mental health. If it is empiraclly shown that certain genetic mechanisms contribute to mental disorders, then more effective forms of treatment can be developed to tackle them.

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