Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TAG of the Week:

Welcome to HS320 Genomics in Public Health Spring Semester 2014.

The impact of epigenetic factors on health and disease is increasingly becoming more evident than previously expected (in the Pre-Human Genome Project era). Watch the short video clip on the "The Ghost in your Genes".


Based on the class discussion, readings, lecture, and video, briefly share a new insight you learned this week. You can discuss about epigenetics, breast cancer, and/or any other new information. 

Choose one of the four following activities and share your response in the "Comment Section below"
1. You can share the new, 'surprising' information you learned
2. Ask a question that needs additional clarification,
3. Share a news link relevant to the discussion on epigenetics. 
4. Reply to another student's comment.


  1. After watching the video "The Ghosts in your Genes" and going over the lecture material from today, the resounding message was that gene expression was effected by what your parents and grandparents did, rather than what you did in daily life. Diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, which are only passed down hereditarily show that living your day-to-day life has little or no impact on the chances of getting that disease.
    However, an article on Forbes titled "Jet Lag, Late Nights, and Naps Disrupt Gene Function, New Study Shows" points in the opposite direction. This article states that staying up late and disrupting sleep patterns shows negative genetic effects in as little as three days. Disrupting people's sleep patterns showed a strong decrease in genetic expression, which effects people's circadian rhythms and other bodily functions like metabolism. The article states that companies are implementing nap rooms in their offices to promote less late nights at the office and sleeping in a controlled environment.
    It seems like there has to be some sort of middle ground between nothing in the present having an effect on genetic expression, and sleep deprivation only taking three days to effect a person. Diseases that can only be passed down hereditarily show that there are occurrences where the person's present state of health plays no role in the matter, but this study shows the opposite.

    Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/01/22/jet-lag-and-working-at-night-disrupts-your-genes-new-study-shows/

  2. I could not agree more with Sawyer. I have found a similar article on the area of sleep deprivation and stress levels impact on genetic function. These are two major aspects of the college lifestyle and they have always interested me as far as knowing the long term effects. I remember reading a few months ago, an article that referenced a study that was similar to the forbes article posted which makes me believe that this data is now being backed by not only one source but several trying to raise awareness. The article I have chosen is one that depicts the all too true reality of the long term negative impacts of too much stress and too little sleep. Lowered gene activity is apparent in small amounts of time in addition to the very scary reality of developing a serious disease or condition from environmental factors/stressors. We do not inherit just the genes but also the environmental factors that altered those genes. This on one hand adds more meaning and depth to what we pass down to our children and what we receive from our ancestors. On the other hand I find it scary that the stresses from the past that our ancestors experienced could pass down in the form of genetic disease in the future.

    Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleep-newzzz/201303/lack-sleep-disrupts-our-genes

  3. This quote from the video "The Ghost in Your Genes" puts everything in perspective for me - "You are what your mother ate" and "you are what your grandmother ate". These quotes show that we are not just what we eat and that we inherit the environmental factors and stressors our ancestors were exposed to. I have learned that inheritance is more than just genetics and DNA sequences. I am beginning to understand the three types if structural modifications that can occur (histone modification, DNA modification, regulation by non-coding RNA) due to environmental factors, but I believe some examples on what environmental factors cause these modifications would help me to fully understand these methods.

    1. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development state that exercise, diet, nicotine, alcohol, medications and chemicals in living/working space (asbestos) can be classed as environmental factors that can cause structural modifications. Specifically the article highlights that a high fat diet of a pregnant mother can cause epigenetic changes in their offspring. Also, a "Lack of essential vitamins and nutrients, such as choline, B vitamins, and folic acid" can cause epigenetic changes. "An NICHD-supported animal study linked lack of B vitamins and folate in pregnant mothers’ diets with epigenetic changes, obesity, and heart disease in their offspring." Finally, an "Intake of resveratrol...found in red grapes and red wine, may help protect against cancer" through epigenetic modifications.
      Another article states that age is related to type 2 diabetes through epigenetic changes, "Recent data further suggest that the epigenetic pattern may change during the course of life, affecting key genes in the respiratory chain (32–34). COX7A1, which is part of complex 4 of the respiratory chain and which shows decreased expression in diabetic muscle, is a target of age-related DNA methylation (23,34)." In other words the DNA methylation causes a decreased expression of COX7A1 which signals for type 2 diabetes.

      These are just a few factors which cause epigenetic changes. Im sure there are many more!
      Hope this helps!!!



  4. The information presented in "The Ghost in Your Genes" quite honestly shocked me. Before watching the video, I was well aware that my daily activities could influence or manipulate my DNA; however, I had no idea that these alterations of my DNA could be passed down to my future children and that my ancestors may have passed their DNA alterations down to me. I had always assumed that these DNA changes only occurred in our body (somatic) cells. This video opened my eyes to the possibility that if these changes occur in our gametes, those changes get passed along to future generations. Quite honestly, that scares me! No longer can I assume that I alone hold the key to my healthy future. My health is (or was) also in the hands of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. This makes me feel a bit helpless, as I have no control over my ancestor's actions. Hopefully by continuing to make healthy choices, I can combat these epigenetic changes within my genome.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Similar to Lindsey, "The Ghost in Your Genes" video left me very surprised. Being an athlete, I have also been very conscious of the extent to which daily activity and nutrition impact my genetic make-up. I did not understand the full extent of this in a hereditary setting, however. I have always believed that my own lifestyle choices determine my physical state. Obviously I was aware of generational traits, but I never realized that such choices of my ancestors have highly impacted myself. This all has led me to wonder what specific choices made by my ancestors determined the specific genetic make-up I have, and the one I will pass on. In addition, both my parents come from different places, outside of the states, so it makes me think even more, how their international lifestyles as well as those of their families might have impacted me.
      For me, this video just gave me a whole new mentality on the topic, given that I have always been convinced that you are fully in control of your body.

    3. I agree with both Lindsey and Cameron! "The Ghost in Your Genes" Video opened my eyes to something I never knew could exist. I always understood that physical characteristics could be passed down through your grandparents for example eye color or hair color. But the fact that toxins that they were exposed to, could somehow effect me and my children is shocking. I understand how Lindsey may feel helpless, but this gives us so much power to affect the lives of our grandchildren. This can give us the motivation to live healthier lives for not only the sake of ourselves but for our children too!

      This phenomenon makes me see diseases in a whole new light.
      Studies like the Framingham Heart study looks at disease and exposure through generations. This study follows grandparents, parents and children throughout their lives to see what they are exposed to and what causes heart disease. If those researchers look closely to those people and the diseases they develop, I'm sure they would be able to see some "ghosts" in their genes as well.

      Doctors and other researchers can benefit from this 'ghost' phenomenon when studying idiosyncratic diseases. Perhaps by looking at the lives of patient's ghosts, answers may be found.

      Another thing that I am wondering about is how this can affect cancer and cancer studying. if anyone finds ant articles about ancestor's living environment as a risk factor for cancer then I would be very interested in reading about that!

  5. The video "The Ghost in Your Genes" presents what I believe to be the core objective as to why studying genomics is relevant to everyone. As the video mentioned, our actions in our lifetime not only affects ourselves, but also our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. That statement truly resonated because it initially sounded like an outlandish statement to make. It was like saying if one were to get a tan from visiting the beach, they will stay tan for the rest of their life, and their children and grandchildren will also be tan, perhaps even the same shade. But after deliberating, is it true. Using the same example, it would be similar to stating tanning so often may increase your risk of melanoma and certain genes to become sensitive to skin-related conditions, and that increased sensitivity may possibly be inheritable. I'm beginning to believe how we are, what we decide, what we are capable of are all not determined by our just our DNA, or just the environment; it is both.

  6. After watching the video, “The Ghost in Your Genes,” I was made more aware of how my daily activities and environment factors that surround me can affect the wellbeing of my children and grandchildren. Learning this puts more responsibility on my shoulders. Although, I have to say I’m not very surprised because if DNA is passed down then what’s to say DNA modifications can’t also be passed down.
    This article: http://wuwm.com/post/are-you-obese-because-grandma-starved-milwaukee-researcher-says-its-possible - also talks about gene expression modifications can be passed down.

    I have to disagree with Sawyer in saying that the video’s message was that gene expression was affected by only what our parents and grandparents did. The message to me seemed to be that our daily activities do affect our own gene expression and epigenome and that these gene modifications can also be passed down to future generations.

  7. I agree with Lindsey. This information from the Ghost in our Genes video, as well as what we have been learning this past week so far in class is so interesting, and kind of hard to believe. We know that choices that we make, and environmental exposures we experience, such as smoking or using tanning beds, affect us and our health, but we rarely think about the effects these actions will have on our children or their children. I think this information is easy to get tripped up on, however, and get confused with heredity of genes or genotypes and phenotypes. I noticed someone commented on the Ghost in our Genes video on Youtube asking if this information meant that a trait, such as the length of a giraffe's neck, could change in one generation. I know this is not true, but it does seem to be what the video is saying to someone that doesn't quite understand genetics and genomics. The point that is being made is that the environment can in fact change your DNA, and this change can be passed down if it occurs in the sex cells which are passed down to your children. This can be done in several ways; histone or DNA modification, or noncoding RNA regulation, and the gene, such as for a propensity to drink a lot of water, is either turned off or on. So, it is unlikely that a trait, such as the length of a giraffe's neck would change in this way, not only because this is not an example of gene expression but also since this is something that would not be due to an environmental change anyway.

  8. “The Ghost in Your Genes” was an eye-opening video that really made me question conventional genetics and its role in inheritance. No longer is the question simply about “nature vs. nurture,” this video showed that health also has to do with the “nurture” of one’s ancestors as well. And to continue with this pattern, what I do today can influence my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. This is a scary thought, and makes me realize how important genomics is to fully understand what can affect me and how I can affect others.

    The video’s example of Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome was very interesting to me, as it was a concrete example of how the same deletion in a chromosome can have completely different effects. After doing additional research in the American Journal of Medical Genetics on both disorders, I saw how epigenetics did indeed make the difference in the manifestation of the different syndromes. Both syndromes are the result of a deletion in a region of chromosome 15. However, different DNA modifications, specifically methylation, can work to “turn of” a specific parent’s gene. In Angelman syndrome, the maternal gene is the one that no longer functions. In Prader-Willi syndrome, the paternal gene is the one that is “turned off”.

    It is amazing to see that a seemingly simple “turning off” of a gene can result in two very different disorders, even though the genetic makeup should be the same. Thus, I now fully realize that epigenetics has a vital role in the expression of our genes. Furthermore, it shows that the old “nature vs. nurture” debate is just one portion of us, as genomics is expanding our understanding of our definition of who we are and why.


  9. After watching “Ghost in Your Genes,” I realized that the idea of passing on mutations isn’t new, but was so explicitly said in the video that it was surprising. While I’ve learned about this phenomenon in my biology classes, I didn’t realize the magnitude or importance of it. I’m very interested in watching the rest of the series. Two examples immediately came to mind during the video: sickle cell anemia disease (once a protective mutation against malaria) and the effects of radiation in the communities and descendents of Chernobyl and Hiroshima.

    While I see Sawyer’s point, I don’t think that our own day to day life has no impact on our health, let alone our genetics. I believe that Irene is correct in pointing out that the video’s message is more of a explanation that changes in gene expression can be passed down to our descendants. In fact, I think that having a family history will increases chances of getting that particular condition/disease, but may be avoided or risk reduced by our own current lifestyle and actions.

    While looking at epigenetics for this class, I found this article published a week ago in the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News that highlights research done by a team at Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York. The scientists have identified a new mechanism that cocaine uses to alter the brain’s reward circuits and causes addiction. It does this through changing the way genes are expressed, activating or repressing the PARP-1 gene, found in the brain. This PARP-1 gene, or poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation polymerase-1, increases the amount of PAR markers in the genes in the nucleus accumbens, which scientists say lead to long-term addiction.

    This article is especially relevant to our discussions this week because we covered the basics of epigenetics and the three types of gene modification. This is a great example of epigenetics in research, as well the applicable products of such research. While this article relates more to epigenetics on an individual level rather than the video’s broad generational outlook, it may be possible that individual conditions may eventually become hereditary.

    Source: http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/new-light-shed-on-role-of-epigenetics-in-cocaine-addiction/81249397/

  10. Haniya Saleem SyedaJanuary 29, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    I thought "The Ghost in Your Genes" was an informative video, and though parts of it were surprising, I wasn't too surprised about the information I learned. We all know that our genes are inherited from our parents who inherit their genes from their parents, so clearly there is a link between our genes and those of our grandparents. But is it that shocking that the behaviors and environment of our grandparents would effect them, and therefore us, genetically? Maybe I'm thinking about this the wrong way but DNA acts as a blueprint for our cells but if this blueprint doesn't change, then what we eat, our environment, our behaviors wouldn't matter on a genetic level. But then what explains the sudden appearance of genetic diseases and higher risks for certain diseases? Shouldn't there be a change on a genetic level for this to happen and doesn't it seem logical that that genetic change should begin from our grandparents and be a result of their actions and environment?

    As someone studying Public Health, this idea just doesn't seem that new to me.

    Though I do find it scary to think that my grandparents environment could affect my genes, I do find comfort in the fact that we are more than our genes. My grandparents actions and environment may determine my genetic makeup but my own behaviors and environments also affect my genes and how these genes are translated.

  11. I was very intrigued and surprised by the video "The Ghost in Your Genes", and wanted to learn more about how your grandparents' exposures and behaviors can affect you. I read an article called "From Great Grandma to You", from Science News in 2013. This magazine is geared towards the public, and explained the complex genetic pathways simply and effectively. The article detailed how exposures that a pregnant woman is exposed to can have effects on generations to come. This quote in particular really stood out to me:

    "Part of your risk of disease may be determined by what your great-grandparents ate, not just the genes they passed on. Some researchers even believe that the long-lasting effects of these chemical marks helped shape human evolution."

    The idea that these epigenetic changes could go so far as to affect human evolution is so interesting and important to the field of genomics.

    Source: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/great-grandma-you

  12. I greatly appreciated this week's lectures and readings because they had me recall content from other classes I've taken at BU. I've learned about transcription, translation, mutations, and other modifications to DNA structure in cell biology, but re-examining these topics from an environmental point of view was new to me. We inherit our genomes from our ancestors, but our epigenomes are unique to us. I think "The Ghost in Our Genes" would inspire hope in individuals at risk for disease because it would give them some control over the development of disease. For example, living a healthy lifestyle could significantly reduce the chances of developing diabetes and heart disease in high-risk patients.

    This article posted by the New York Times introduces medicine to the discussion. It describes a unique partnership between Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the Geisinger Health System. Over the next 5 years, Regeneron will fund Geisinger's sequencing 100,000 patients' exomes, the 1% of the human genome that codes for proteins. I found this article particularly interesting because I have lived in Pennsylvania, where Geisinger treats patients, and I would someday like to work for a pharmaceutical company as a biostatistician. Though I would like to administer clinical trials for new drugs, I think it is important for physicians to understand that patients might respond to them differently based on their genetic makeup. Examining each patient's DNA can highlight mutations that might indicate risk for diseases, such as breast cancer, and help physicians choose treatment more likely to be effective based on each patient's exome. More projects like this will also prevent individuals from seeking genetic tests from other sources. Results obtained from unreliable sources might cause individuals to make rash and dangerous decisions regarding their health.

    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/business/aiming-to-push-genomics-forward-in-new-study.html?_r=0

    1. Although I do see the advantages of using widespread exome and DNA sequencing, I do think that there is the potential for many problems. As Teesta mentioned, pharmacogenomics is very important, and a better understanding of how drugs and specific genetic makeups interact would allow physicians to provide better, more personalized, treatment options. However, I do think there are many issues if exome and DNA sequencing becomes commonplace. As covered in the Hudson article, privacy is an issue when doing these types of tests. Additionally, I can not help but think that we(as a society) may become too reliant on what these sequences say. For instance, just because the given sequence says that a child may be more predisposed to developing Huntington's when he gets older, who is to say that this prediction will come to fruition? I think we must keep in mind that it is possible to develop diseases and conditions that we may have not been predisposed toward. Maybe the widespread use of this technology would place more emphasis on patient-centered care, but there is always the chance that this information could be used inappropriately and individuals would develop an over-reliance on their sequence predictions.

      In response to your last two sentences, I do not think that your proposed problem is simply limited to those who attain genetic tests from other sources. The accessibility of sequences comes with many complications, and I personally believe it should only be used for treatment purposes. Yes, there are countless opportunities to harness the wealth of information provided by sequences, but could the availability of this knowledge and the sense of impending prognosis cause more harm than good?

  13. It was interesting to learn that not only can epigenetic factors affect our genes, as we’ve learned in class this week, but that these environmental effects can be passed down and inherited by later generations, as explained in “The Ghost in Your Genes.” While I agree with Lauren that the quote at the beginning of the video, “you are what your grandmother ate,” helped me put things in perspective, I feel that the quote is a bit of an exaggeration. I think it would be more realistic to say that you may be affected by what your grandmother ate, since we don’t necessarily inherit every piece of genetic information from previous generations.

    The most interesting thing I learned this week in class is the difference (or the seemingly lack thereof) between mutations and polymorphisms. The fact that the difference between the two types of variations is in the frequency in which they occur is surprising to me because it is very societally based. For example, a disease allele that’s rare in one society or population and would be considered a mutation may be a polymorphism in another. From this I would infer than a mutation in one population can later become known as a polymorphism in the same population, but I am still unclear if this is correct.

    Also, I would find it helpful if we could review the three major epigenetic mechanisms from the Duarte article.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I reviewed the molecular epigenetic mechanisms in today's class - histone modification, DNA modification, and non-coding RNA. Focus on the Histone/DNA modifications. Environmental factors (i.e. diet, where you live, whether you exercise ... etc) can have molecular and chemical changes to your body, thus causing epigenetic changes.
      Does this clarifies your question?
      Hope this helps.
      Prof. Chan

    2. Thanks for the clarification!

  14. I have actually seen that exact documentary in my developmental psychology class last year so I was not very surprised. Although, seeing it for the second time did reiterate how much our behavioral choices today and the behavioral choices of our ancestors affect us now. I agree with many of the students above who say that both factors, our choices in the present AND our ancestors choices in the past, play a role in how we are and how our future generations are.

    However, I can see where Michelle is coming from because I can see how the quote "you are what your grandmother ate" could be a bit of an exaggeration. Many of our ancestors smoked cigarettes and ate a poorer diet and made overall poorer lifestyle decisions and this has greatly affected some peoples genetic make up, and others not significantly at all. It will be interesting to see why some people are more affected than others and what directly causes us to be affected differently.

    I found this article from Discover Magazine called "Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes" by Dan Hurley. This article is in favor for what the documentary argues, the fact that our ancestors do impact our genetic makeup. This article discusses behavioral epigenetics. In one section, it talks about a study that directly relates to what we learned in class about DNA methylation. It discusses how a study was conducted with female mice who were fed a diet rich in methyl groups, which in turn caused a change in the fur pigment in subsequent offspring of those particular female mice. This was one of the first instances where they observed that diet and chemicals could change genetics. I thought that was really interesting and further reiterated the fact that our ancestors choices, in addition to our choices in the present, can affect our genetics and our offspring's genetics.


  15. I thought that this video was very interesting and help solidified what we discussed on Tuesday, which was epigenetics. I was particularly surprised at the point in which one of the researchers explains how a deletion in the same chromosome resulted in two completely different diseases. At first, I didn't understand how that was possible. But then I remembered that there are other things happening at the molecular level that could affect the expression and regulation of those genes.

    I also think this is interesting because from a Public Health perspective, I feel like none of my classes have ever placed a lot of weighted value on genetics. We talk mainly about behavior and access to healthcare, but I didn't think about the behavior of relatives, which I now see as an important thing to discuss. The idea of what your grandmother ate affecting your health is interesting and important, especially at a time when researchers are exploring the genetics of obesity.

    In our discussion of epigenetics, I wanted to see another example, so I did research and found a great article on breast cancer. Breast cancer genes are well known in the science community. It's not uncommon for many to know what BRCA1 and BRCA2 do. However, I never thought about the epigenetics of breast cancer. This article examines that and finds that DNA methylation could lead to clusters of breast cancer that are often seen within families. I think this is really interesting, because then we are finding regular gene mutations that cause a certain disease, but also other epigenetic events that can increase risk. In order to find a solution to breast cancer, it's important that all aspects are understood.

    Article: https://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/epigenetics/article/26880/

  16. The video, "The Ghost in Your Genes", was somewhat shocking to me. I've never thought of genetics in terms of behavior factors affecting the outcomes of what is passed down from generation to generation. The whole concept that my grandmother's environmental factors could somehow trickle down to my own genetics is remarkable and a bit scary. So far, I think this class is extremely interesting especially since in other classes we have purely focused on the biology of genetics. It's nice to see that genetics connects to public health and that genomics is becoming a larger and more known field.

    I found an interesting article from the New York Times talking about how the field of genomics is evolving and in Pennsylvania, a biotechnology company is partnering with a health system to sequence DNA from 100,000 volunteers to seek genetic variants linked to diseases. They hope to use this information to develop new drugs as well as improving patient care. There are many studies similar to this being undertaken around the world which is a great step forward for disease and pharmaceutical research.

    Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/business/aiming-to-push-genomics-forward-in-new-study.html?_r=0

  17. I found this TedX talk from 2012 on epigenetics and found it helped me understand what we went over in class but also links to the video above and the development of epigenetics. I was amazed by a section near the end which discusses how we might use epigenetics to begin curing diseases! I thought it was useful, well explained and easy to watch!


  18. After watching “The Ghost in Your Genes” I wasn’t too surprised, although I did find the video to be both interesting and informative. From previous biology and health science classes I’ve learned that your genetics come from your parents, grandparents, previous ancestors, etc. I also learned that there are strong environmental factors that affect each person’s life, therefore affecting their genetics; ranging from second hand smoke causing lung cancer in which the gene gets past on making future generations more susceptible, to even radiation caused in areas such as Chernobyl, or other radioactive sites, that cause genes to change, mutate, or evolve.
    One question I have is what is the affect of methylation? I believe I learned that it hinders transcription, but I would like clarification.

    1. After reading some informative articles on the subject, it turns out that methylation of DNA has a ton of very influential affects on our genome and have severe impacts that we are only just beginning to realize. First, it is said to be essential for cell differentiation and embryonic development. It helps direct our gene expression by inhibiting the transcription of certain portions of nucleotide patterns (The CG6 island that professor Chan briefly touched upon in class). A good description of the mechanism is this-- when DNA is methylated, nearby histones are deacetylated, resulting in compounded inhibitory effects on transcription.

      At this point in time, the exact role of methylation in gene expression is unclear. however many associations have been made between the formation of traits connected to certain areas of our DNA that are methylated and connections to certain areas of our DNA because they have shown to be unmethylated after laboratory research.

      Methylation abnormalities and errors/changes stemming from methylation have also given rise to numerous detrimental diseases such as cancer, lupus, muscular dystrophy and birth defects. Largely, research with methylation focuses it's link to cancer and tumors. Hypermethylation (That is, intense methylation at certain sites) has been proven to silence tumor suppressor genes present in cancer cells which are largely important to keeping cells healthy. The good news is, with recent research and continued study in the subject, we can try to spin the discoveries of methylation and it's inhibiting properties by using them as biomarkers for the disease and combatting it's spread.

      I hope this helps! Any other clarifications you may need? This Scitable article I found on the topic was very informative- I suggest you check it out!


    2. This helps a lot! Thank you!

  19. I've definitely heard the theories of "The Ghost in Your Genes" in other health classes--mentions of how ancestors' health have been found to be the best indicators for an individual's health, but I've rarely seen explanation as why. This video provides an interesting discussion aimed at answer these questions.

    It makes sense that the genome doesn't operate autonomously from the human body, and that it is in fact affected by the body. It's almost reassuring to think how much more we have to learn about our genes and how our actions could be affecting future generations, in that our fate is not sealed by our genetic code!

  20. I have a question about the Human Genome Project that I have been struggling to understand. The Human Genome Project sequenced the complete human genome, how can this sequence be applied/compared to everyone's genome if everyone's genome if different? Also, how can there be only one sequence of the entire human genome if we all have different genomes?

    1. This is an interesting question that I would also like clarification on.

    2. For what I understand about the Human Genome Project, it looks at the different variations of these genes. Although everyone has a different genome, it still stands that we share nearly identical genes. The Human Genome Project just looked to sequence these genes as well as find whatever variations they could, and sequence those too. However, though the project is completed, there's still ~8% of the genome that's unsequenced.

  21. It was always in the back of my mind from what I learned throughout the years that the genes from our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.. are passed down to us, so I also did not find that too surprising. However, what was interesting and eye-opening was that I never realized how much effect the environmental factors that our parents, grandparents, and so on, were surrounded in could have on us today in our generation. I've always only thought about the generic things that can be passed down, like hair/eye color, personality, genetic diseases like cancer. So it was interesting when the video clip stated that "an environmental exposure that your grandmother had, could cause a disease in you even though you've never been exposed to the toxin...and you are going to pass it on to your great grand kids." This makes me question how the current environment that surrounds us today can affect us, negatively or positively, when our genes have already been possibly affected by the environmental factors our mothers and grandparents faced from their generation. And even to our kids and great grand kids.

  22. "The Ghost in Your Genes" clip enforced what we learned in class the other day regarding epigenetics. It is amazing that what your great grandparents and grandparents ate, what they did and where the lived can greatly effect your own DNA and health. This fact reinforces the importance of the mission of public health. Finding risk factors and addressing them is key in order to advance the health of successive generations. In the article I found in the Journal of Gerontology and Geriatrics they authors support epigenetics with historical references.

    During the Dutch Famine of 1944-45 pregnant women did not receive adequate nutrition. Not only did the mothers suffer but there children were more prone to poor health in there future life. The article also takes into account early childhood nutrition which can play a role on future generations. These findings bring forth the importance of dealing with nutrition during pregnancy and childhood years.

    Article: http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/transgenerational-inheritance-of-longevity-an-epigenetic-phenomenon-2167-7182.1000e116.php?aid=8011

  23. Through our class lectures, assigned readings, and this video I have continued to be surprised by the effect that our past relatives have on us, and that more than our genes and the DNA sequences we have inherited make up who we are. This class is unlike any other class I have taken, and I have found it fascinating in terms of how we become who we are, and the major factors that play a role. I have found it interesting that the environment and actions of our parents and grandparents affect us as deeply as in our genes. In one of the first lectures I learned a lot of new things about epigenetics. I never knew how epigenetic factors determined how tightly or loosely our genes were packed, which in turn determined if they were turned on or off, or what parts of them were exposed for transcription. I never knew how complex DNA transcription, replication, and inheritance were.

    In the video “The Ghost in Your Genes” they stated that the select few doctors that were investigating the effect of ancestors actions on genes were actually working against the current accepted views of their field. I liked how one of the doctors explained it, that when a kid developed a disease or disorder that did not have a history in the family genetics, and their chromosomes did not prove to be abnormal, doctors and scientists had to think up or imagine something else that could have effected that persons genome. I think the video clearly showed how many different things can have an effect on a person.

  24. After watching the video "Ghost in your genes" I was surprised by a lot of in the information discussed. I had no idea that experiences your ancestors had could affect your DNA. I think today's society is aware that the environment and lifestyle choices can affect your health and genome. However, I don't believe that the general public knows that their ancestors' experiences and living conditions can also still influence their DNA. Going forward, I believe public health officials should attempt to make this phenomenon more well known.

    I found an article similar to the video and was surprised again by what I learned. This article was talking about behavioral as well as environmental factors on genetics. One of the most shocking points I read stated that a person's predisposition to depression could be caused by their grandma being neglected as a newborn. This left me wondering what effect some of my ancestor's lives have on my DNA present day!


  25. I find this whole topic of epigenetics very interesting but also a little foreign. Before watching "The Ghost in Your Genes" video I was still very confused on the meaning of epigenetics. I didn't fully understand what it meant for something to have effects above the gene/genome. I understand the modifications that can be done on the gene that we learned in class and how they change the gene because it is at gene level but I didn't understand what was meant but having an effect above the DNA level.

    I now understand the meaning of epigenetics but I still think that I think I am still a little confused that environmental factors can have a large effect our actual genes from what gets passed down to and from our ancestors and relatives. I get that how I eat and treat my body will effect my health and impact my future but it's not easy for me to wrap my head around the idea that where my grandmother grew up or what my mother ate can impact my genes.

    I am very used to the conventional understanding of how genetics is presented, which is also talked about in "The Ghost in Your Genes" video. The video also presents reasons as to where this idea of environmental effects came from and it seems to be logical. However, I am still very curious as to how it all works and think I could benefit from looking up more examples and articles that talk about and explain the origin and reasoning behind epigenetics and how it is all possible.

  26. Before taking Genomics, I have never heard of Epigenetics. As a health science student, we have been taught that certain behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, are risk factors for diseases and that these behaviors are within our control. As a result, the information in "The Ghost in Your Genes" was surprising to me. I never thought that our ancestors' behaviors and what they were exposed to would have an effect on us today. It is scary to think that no matter how much we try to follow a healthy lifestyle, there is still an element we cannot control --- the part that we inherit from our ancestors that might put us at risk for disease still.

    The information we learned about breast cancer ties in well with this video. Women are at an increased risk of breast cancer if their relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It makes sense that some women might have the BRCA1 gene mutation even though they follow a healthy lifestyle as a result of how their ancestors lived. Some might even develop breast cancer despite how healthy they are and that is frightening to think about! I find it very helpful to learn about specific diseases because it helps me tie in the general information about genetics and relate it to a disease.

  27. Through our class discussions and the "The Ghosts in Your Genes" I am continually surprised that such small changes and differences in genes and in the genome can have such large effects on a person. For example, in "The Ghosts in Your Genes", they highlight a case study where Angelman Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome are caused by the same deletion on the same chromosome, but if you inherited the chromosome with the deletion from your mom, you get Angelman Syndrome, and Prader-Willi if the chromosome came from your dad. Also in the video, I knew that our ancestors actions would have effects on the genes that they pass on to future generations, but I didn't realize that there were specific sensitive periods that effect the next generation. I was surprised that a woman's sensitive period occurs before she is even born. That means that our grandmother's actions during her pregnancy affected the genes that our parents passed onto us.
    When we talked about mutations in class, it's amazing to me that the change of a single nucleotide can render a protein completely nonfunctional. It's almost scary to think that our genome is fragile in that way, that one small mistake in transcription could have such a large effect on our bodies.

  28. I agree with my classmates who are saying that they find epigenetics fascinating, foreign, and even confusing. Something I found confusing from this video and from today's lecture is that the same mutation/deletion can code for two different diseases. I don't understand how this happens or really how this is even possible. I understand that when the genes affected come from the father it presents one way, and when the genes affected come from the mother it presents another way, but what I don't understand is how or why this happens. Genetically, how is it possible the genes know which parent they come from? How exactly is it possible for the same deletion to cause two different diseases without a clear reason why? Can someone explain this to me further?

  29. "The Ghost in Your Genes" addresses the fact that although there is little difference in each person's genome, every individual is very unique. In previous biology classes I've learned about transcription, translation and reproduction as relatively exact processes that happened all the time and created a specific product. Learning about epigenetics this week has made me think about the biological process of reproduction in a new way.While we understand that we inherit our eye color and our height from our parents, we don't always think about the subtle things we inherit, like specific genes to turn on and off other specific genes, and genes that make us more susceptible to certain illness.
    Like several of my classmates, I was pretty confused by the difference between Angelman's and Prader-Willi syndrome. While I understand the difference in expression is due to the maternal vs. paternal chromosome, I don't understand how that is possible.

  30. I found this article about a study which applies what we've learned about epigenetics in class. As illustrated in "The Ghosts in Your Genes" it reinforces how our ancestors (in this case our fathers) can have epigenetic effects on our own DNA. In this case, the study describes how and investigates why an increase in paternal age can contribute to increased risk of disorders like autism and schizophrenia.


  31. After watching “The Ghost in your Genes” it further taught me more about the truth of our genes. It was fascinating how our genetic inheritance is set in stone. What you do with your life may just affect you but it doesn’t affect your genes since it remains untouched and just passes it on by generation and generation. Marcus studied a lot of genes of family descendants. he found that Angelman and Prader-Willi Syndrome were caused my the same deletion in the genes but they showed different syndromes. People believed that knowing the human genome will lead to figuring out how the human biology works. That it could actually lead to figuring out diseases. It also surprised me how much we really don’t know about genetics and that we really don’t know why certain things happen. That the epigenetics of humans are still a big wonder.

  32. Although I initially found the findings of "The Ghost in Your Genes" to be shocking, after thinking about it I am not very surprised about this phenomenon. It does make sense that the way in which our ancestors lived their lives and the things that they experiences would in turn affect us. I found the example about inadequate nutrition to be particularly pertinent.

    If our ancestors were not adequately fed during their lives due to famine, then their bodies, it would be safe to assume, would not be able to produce as strong or large offspring than f they were properly fed. And this is safe to assume that this change in size, or in other factors, would affect later generations.

    One thing that was not clear to me, however, was the impact that adequate nutrition does have. Meaning, how long would such a famine have to last in order to affect future generations? In the case of a young girl who diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, for example, and is afflicted with the disorder for a maximum of three years, would her offspring be affected by her inadequate nutrition if she did not conceive within 5 years of having the disease? Or does any period of famine, no matter how long, affect future generations?

    I would love to learn more about this aspect of Epigenetics, and the severity of the impact that certain events would have on future generations.

    1. Juliana, I had the same thoughts after watching the clip. It is astonishing how the living conditions of a person can alter their genes and affect their progeny—generations after.

      And to answer your questions, I do not believe that there is or will be, a concrete number of years associated with an exposure that will determine whether a person will develop a change in their gene. Everyone’s genetic makeup is different which accounts for the varying susceptibilities amongst people towards environmental stressors; some individuals can be more easily prone to develop a disease from an exposure while others can be immune.

      I also found an interesting article mentioning that research supports genetic linkage in chromosome 1 to anorexia, bulimia, and other psychiatric disorders that are considered psychosocial in origin. It mentions that there is most likely isn’t a single gene that cause theses disorders, “but rather a number of genes that dispose someone to it.” I am interested in finding out what further developments in genetics yields and its potential for prevention, therapy and treatment.

  33. I think the information we have been learning in class and in this clip is quite interesting. Many students have been saying the information is great and will be so helpful but I have to disagree. One of the researchers said that knowing his experiences will affect his children makes him feel "closer" to them. To me this idea that what my great grandmother while my grandmother was in the womb can affect me sounds too much like destiny and control that is already prevalent in genetics. The fact that something so trivial as this is not something that comforts me, I don't want to worry about what my great grandmother did and how that affects me or how what I will do will affect my grandchildren (if I will have any). Having to know our choice can affect three generations down the line is too much to worry about. There is no way to even know if you will have grandchildren so the worry seems unnecessary. Thinking about our past, people already worry about finding out their genes and thinking that what their genes say will determine their future. Having to now know that what your grandparents did will also affect our lives is even worse. Furthermore, I do not like the idea mentioned at the end of the video that epigenetics will help us fully understand how to bring about "the end of diseases like cancer". To me this seems to similar of an idea to the Eugenics Movement of the early 1900s and that understanding how the environment affects our genes can cause too much discrimination against those who d have diseases or disability. This may seems overly negative to some and like I've watched too much sc-fi (I have) but I think while many people say how amazing and beneficial genetics, genomics, and epigenetics it is important to keep in mind the opposite side of it and how it may not be solely beneficial.

  34. The fact that you can develop a disease due to environmental exposures your ancestors experienced is astonishing. Upon watching this video, however, it completely made sense and I wondered why I had never thought about it until now. Of course if traits such as eye color, hair color, and diseases are passed down from generation to generation then environmentally modified genes can as well. I found it interesting that with this knowledge, one professor felt a stronger spiritual connection with his children, feeling as though they had experienced a part of his past (even if on a microscopic level.) Personifying these inheritable genetic modifications as "experiences" romanticizes the notion in a good way because ultimately these small changes in DNA make us the beings we are. Lastly, the recent discovery that changes in one gene could cause many different results (such as the specific deletion on chromosome 15) serves as a constant reminder that we are still very in the dark about much in the science discipline.

  35. I found this video to be enlightening and interesting. So interesting that I watched the entire thing because I wanted to learn more and see more examples of how epigenetic changes transcend generations. I think it is incredible that it is not just our genes and our lifestyle that ultimately result in gene expression but how much of an impact past actions by our ancestors have on our current future.

    The fact that stress can possibly transcend generations as seen with the study of the effects of PTSD from 9/11 on pregnancies is hard to comprehend since many of us are stressed. It makes me wonder if there have been any events in my relatives lives that may influence how I react to stressful situations.

    On part of the video I found particularly interesting was the part about linking pesticide exposure to diseases, as seen in future generations of mice. It makes me wonder what effects of heavier pesticide usage in the past will have on not only affect our health but the health of future generations. We know what the short term effects of certain organphosphates have on organisms but this new research makes the long term consequences even more important to learn.

    I really appreciate how this video adds to our current knowledge about what influences our gene expression. It is incredible how only a short while ago we thought only our inherited genes and our lifestyle influenced our health. And now we have evidence and proof that epigenetics are a part of who we are. Its incredible how the research is evolving so quickly. Hopefully with this deeper understanding of how genes work we will be able to understand what causes certain diseases and how they may be treated.

  36. Much like my classmates, I found the new information about epigenetics to be surprsing and really intriguing. My basic biological understanding of genetics was that our DNA which makes us up is inherited from our parents, their's from their parents, and so on. Learning about epigenetics has showed me that there are other factors that can influence our DNA, which was something I had never though of before. After watching "The Ghost in Your Genes," and seeing how different factors that impacted our parents can also have an impact on our being reminded me of something silly my mother used to tell me when I was younger. My mother used to tell me that I loved seafood so much because when she was pregnant with me, she ate a lot of fish. Although I still think this correlation is silly, maybe epigenetics has made it possible.

  37. After watching “The Ghost in Your Genes” it really made me realize that everything you do can affect your genes, DNA, and possibly your future children and grandchildren. I knew that DNA is passed down from generation to generation but what surprised me the most was how much my daily activities can influence my genes. Both the Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome are very interesting and shows how a deletion can affect a person so drastically with just one small change in the genes. It is also very scary to think about how much of an effect they can have on us. This video is a great follow up to what we have discussed about Tuesday regarding epigenetic. Knowing this, I wonder what effects I would have on my genes and my future children and grandchildren. I began reading more articles about epigenetic and found out that traumatic experiences in our ancestors can leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. It is interesting how we are understanding epigenetic more and more and there are a great amount of new shocking discoveries each time. I hope one day we can examine exactly how our actions effect our genes so we can make proper choices that will help our genes and our future children.


  38. Alexander de GrootJanuary 31, 2014 at 1:34 AM

    This week’s discussion on breast cancer detection and the BRCA gene especially intrigued me. It is well known that a woman who inherits a BRCA gene has an increased risk of breast cancer in her lifetime. However, after reading the assigned article by Bellcross et al. (2011), I was shocked to learn how little primary care physicians (PCPs) know about breast cancer risk factors.

    The study by Bellcross et al. (2011) sent a survey to 1500 physicians and asked them questions regarding how often they ordered BRCA tests. The survey also asked them to identify from a set of five scenarios which ones had the most risk factors for the possible presence of the BRCA gene. The study found that “one third of physicians aware of BRCA testing, and one quarter of those who had ordered testing, did not select the two scenarios most likely to be associated with the presence of a BRCA mutation” (Bellcross et al, 2011, p. 63). In other words, doctors are over-ordering the BRCA test without completely understanding the other range of risk factors associated with the cancer.

    From a public health standpoint, this is concerning for both patients and the healthcare system. For patients, BRCA testing can be expensive and stressful. According to breastcancer.org, BRCA testing can cost anywhere from $300 to $3000. This is an expensive test for most people and it is also an expensive burden on the healthcare system. Furthermore, patients may experience stress waiting for results that might come out negative. Because of this, PCPs should having a strong understanding of breast cancer risk factors so that they can provide justified referrals for BRCA tests.

    This is an issue of quality of care, and it needs to be addressed. The public deserves quality and effective preventive care for breast cancer. An important first step is to provide PCPs with more education about breast cancer risk factors in addition to the BRCA gene. While the discovery of genetic risk factors for disease offer society a great window of opportunity for preventive care, it is still important to balance them with an understanding of traditional risk factors.

    Bellcross et al., “Awareness and utilization of BRCA1/2 testing among U.S. primary care physicians.” Am J Prev Med 2011. Jan 40 (1)

    Breastcancer.org. (2014). “Genetic testing facilities and cost.”

  39. After watching the video clip I learned that ancestry exposure has an effect on future generations. I was truly amazed by this finding. I was especially amazed that there are specific critical time periods in which exposure will have an effect on gametes (during puberty for males and in the womb for females). However, I question the degree of the impact on future generations. For instance, should grandparents be blamed for diseases that children acquire? I wonder how significant is the 'imprinting" pattern of inheritance. I was surprised that choices/exposures ancestors had many years ago would 'haunt' generations to come.

    Another fact that surprised me is the Angelman and Pradee-Willi syndrome because both syndromes contain the same deletion in the chromosome 15 however the diseases have different symptoms depending on whether the gene was inherited from the mother or father. My first thought was how many more diseases can scientist couple in this fashion? In conclusion, I agree with Anya that there MUCH more to learn about the role of genetics. There is also a lot facts that need to be proven.

  40. After watching, "The Ghost in your Genes" I was surprised to learn how situations that my grandparents experienced could affect my genes. In biology classes, we have always learned that we get our genes from our parents, and them from our grandparents, etc. However, I think for most of us, the idea that their experiences and lifestyles are passed through with the genes to us is new information.

    It was interesting to learn about the Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes being caused by the same deletion because they have very different symptoms and outcomes. I don't know if it would be possible, but what might happen in the case that both the mother and the father passed on chromosome 15 with the same deletion? Would it be a completely new disease, or a combination of the two individual diseases?

  41. Watching this video, I was surprised to learn that things that my grandparents might have done or experienced could directly affect my genes. It almost didn't sound like it was true, because all throughout school we are taught that we inherit our genes from our parents. Once I really thought about it, it started to really make sense, and was really interesting.

    From a public health perspective, we tell people to lead certain lifestyles and do certain things because it is beneficial for our health. However, this new study suggests that in addition to our direct benefits from lifestyle choices, we can pass on certain traits through our genes that are also a result from these choices.

  42. The information that I learned over the past week regarding epigenetics has really given me a new perspective at which to look at my personal health behaviors, and how these decisions will affect future generations after me. It is intriguing to know that the environmental factors that my parents and grandparents were exposed to have an effect on my genes.

    The findings that we discussed about breast cancer also resonated with me. Knowing that 50-80% of hereditary breast cancer is caused by a mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes shows the importance of being able to screen for mutations in these genes. The problem that persists, which Angelina Jolie brings up in her article, is the lack of accessibility of this screening. Many people in low- and middle-income countries are victims of breast cancer, and because of the cost and lack of education of the genetic screening, many people in these areas lack the opportunity to access this. Making screening for these specific genes affordable to the women that are at a high risk can possibly save the lives of many women, or at least reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Jolie’s article reinforces how knowledge of a person’s family history can help significantly reduce the risk of developing a disease.

  43. Most people in the public health sector have previously learned about the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes that increase the risk of inherited breast cancer. However, reading Angelina Jolie's New York Times article as well as the "Awareness and Utilization of BRCA1/2 Testing Among U.S. Primary Care Physicians" articles, I am curious as to the extent that the information about genetic risks for breast cancer, as well as all diseases, is conveyed correctly to all patients. Angelina Jolie made a radical choice to have a complete double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. However, her doctor had told her she had an 87% risk of receiving the disease. How did he measure this? Was it completely accurate? If other doctors would have assessed her risk, would it have been the same?

    Since the use of genomic testing has been increasing recently, I think it is extremely important for doctors to fully understand how to assess someones risk before giving them that information. A standard way to assess the risk should be implemented for all physicians who choose to recommend genomic testing to their patients. In the article "Educating health-care professionals about genomics and genomics," they state "the key role of the primary care provider is to accurately identify those patients who require further investigation (or specialist referral)." (http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v8/n2/full/nrg2007.html) This statement may seem so simple, but to me the words "accurate identify" call for a standard assessment for risk to be implemented among doctors. Its important for all physicians to truly deeply understand how to measure the risk and convey that information correctly to their patients.

    I think within no time, the use of genomics will be implemented and available to many patients from their primary care doctors correctly and at appropriate times. The article I mentioned earlier, regarding physicians use of BRCA 1/2 testing, mentions how some physicians use the testing when not completely necessary or they miss people who should really have been tested. This supports the idea that as the use of genomic testing is increasing, standardized information should be given to the physicians so that who receives the tests is not subjective, but rather is any high risk individual no matter the physician they see.

  44. After watching the video “The Ghost in your Genes”, it compelled me take a second look on how I act and carry out my daily functions. Originally, I had thought genes were solely the characteristics children were passed down from their parents . But it is so much more than that, it’s genetic information that has been passed down from many generations and the past experiences they may have encountered. One example was how hunger or famine could have an effect on how future generations function or live their daily functions. Relating this to my life, my grandmother had survived the Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. She had not only starved, but was under a great deal of stress knowing that her life could come to an end at any instance. Even though I live a lifestyle where I am not starved and not under the stress of a concentration death camp, I wonder if these charectaristics are still embedded within my DNA? Is this a big factor in defining who I am today? How my grandmother was able to survive the concentration camps, if I were to go through the camps, would I have been able to survive it the same way she did? This video has taught me that genes as well as the experiences our ancestors have had are being passed down to future generations and the legacy of them lives on inside of us.

  45. After watching the video, reading the articles posted on blackboard, and class lecture, one thing that I am continually being reminded of is that genetic variation can occur in many ways, but on an extremely small scale. Knowing that only a very small percentage of the human genome is different in each individual would be surprising if not for the fact that there are thousands of ways that our genes can be expressed differently. Even something as simple as the way your DNA is physically folded can drastically change you from someone else, and I find that to be fascinating.

    One area I find this particularly interesting in, is when two people inherit the same genome, as in the case of identical twins. Knowing that gene expression can be altered in many ways, does this explain why two people who look exactly the same can act completely different?

    Another thing that really interested me was the ability of environmental and social situations to be passed down through the genome, as shown in the video. Years from now, we will be able to learn about our ancestors and their lives through sequencing and understanding our own genes? Do my genes carry details about the lives of my grandparents, or even great grandparents, who lived half a century ago? These are questions that scientists of the future may be able to answer, and I think that is just amazing.

  46. After watching "The Ghost in your Genes," I was surprised to learn that the actions of your grandparents can so drastically affect your body so many years later. While I knew that you inherit your genes from your grandparents, I did not know that epigenetics could play such a strong role in physical variation.
    I was surprised to learn in class that the American Cancer Society and the Preventative Service Task Force differ so drastically in their recommendations for screenings. I thought with the work they both have done in cancer education, they would have come to a consensus about when, how frequently, and how to screen yourself for breast cancer.

  47. Thursday's class was especially interesting for me. In previous classes, we have discussed how parents' behavioral habits, such as diet and exercise, affect their children's behavioral habits, which in turn affect their health. The reasoning in this case is that the children are exposed to those lifestyle choices and adopt them as their own. However, it was fascinating to learn that this influence goes much deeper--these habits actually affect their genes. I would love to learn more about how these sensitive periods of development have affected our genomes.

    I was also very surprised by what we learned in the video about Angelman syndrome and Pradee Willi syndrome. It is fascinating to think that who we inherit the chromosome from determines how the gene will be expressed. This is something I have never studied before and I would love to learn more about it. Are there other examples of this happening? How does the body differentiate the two chromosomes?

  48. Watching the video and thinking back to what we talked about this week, I thought a lot about how epigenetics reflect the changes that are "above" our genome. Although these external modifications do not change our DNA sequence, they contribute to how cells read the pre-existing genes. They are the mechanisms that switch parts of the genome on or off. It surprises me that such external factors can produce rather strong chemical responses in our bodies, like histone modification. What's even more interesting to me is how these epigenetic markers can be inherited. From the video "The Ghost in Your Genes", I learned that these changes might not even be noticeable until later generations. It really does make you wonder if what you're doing to your body right now will affect your children, grandchildren, and even great-great grandchildren. Moreover, I also became concerned with whether or not I am carrying any "faulty" genes that my ancestors have passed on.
    I could not help but made the connection to the children of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. Their parents lived through the war and basically ingested these herbicides involuntarily. They did not know that even when the war had passed, their children and grandchildren would have to fight another war themselves because the aftermath of Agent Orange are cruel physical and mental disabilities.
    Nowadays, many other chemicals are being produced each day of our lives and we never think about the impact they have on us. The environment that we live in is crucial to our health and the genes that we leave behind after we're gone. We might think that our original DNA would remain the same, and that would be the only thing that gets inherited; but the reality is that epigenetic marks can make an imprint on those genes that we believe are unchangeable. I think it is important that everybody knows how sperms and eggs can "remember" these changes in the genome and pass them onto the developing offspring. As epigenetic researches are expanding, I hope that more people will be educated about the influences their lifestyles may have on their future generations.
    This is an article that talks about our exposure to chemicals and how it can cause damages that will carry on through multiple generations.


  49. After watching "The Ghost in your Genes," I was surprised by two things: 1) what relatives from past generations experienced could be linked to you via your genetics and 2) a deletion on chromosome 15 could cause two completely different syndromes.

    The first point from the video that interested me was the idea that past generations' experiences could be passed on through genetic information. The idea seemed, at first, to be far-fetched. How could it be possible that something could be embedded in our genetics and passed on? The more I thought about it, however, the more I started to believe that it could very well be possible. As I've learned not only in this class, but in other science classes, genetic material is a very delicate thing and is susceptible to mutations and changes that can be harmful or not. Who is to say that it isn't possible for stress and environmental factors couldn't alter a person's genes in such a way that it becomes heritable to future generations?

    The second point from this clip that I found particularly interesting from a scientific standpoint is the case of chromosome 15 and how the same deletion led to two completely different syndromes. How could that be possible? The only thing I could think that would be a possible cause of something like that would be slight differences in gene expression for the two syndromes. But what contradicts this thought processes is that for gene expression to differ, there needs to be a slight difference in the mutation. If the mutations are both the same (i.e. the deletions occur in the same place) then how could gene expression yield two completely different health effects?

    So far, this course has led me down a road with more questions than answers, but I am excited to learn more and formulate my own hypotheses to the questions I've come to ask myself.

  50. There are so many scientific advances that have been made in the last 20 years in the fields of genetics and genomics. These include the undertaking of the human genome project, the successful associations of certain genes with certain diseases, and the more recent discovery of possible inheritance of genes altered by an ancestor's environmental and social exposures.

    Most of the information discussed in class was fairly familiar, and while it is significant, it was not as impressive as the topic broached in the video. The idea that environmental factors directly alter our genetic makeup and therefore affect our future generations should draw greater attention to the importance of protecting against risk factors in our everyday environment, such as air and water pollution, or incidental exposures to harmful chemicals. I think that these are now major concerns, and am glad to see that they are earning there spot in world health concerns. Here is yet another reason to be mindful of these risk factors, not only for our own health but for the health of our children as well.

  51. After taking some of the other required health science classes, I was aware of the fact that there are many outside factors that impact our individual health, but I epigenetics wasn't something that I was familiar with whatsoever. Through what's been discussed in lecture, the assigned readings and "The Ghost in Your Genes" video has provided a different perspective to what I already knew about the environmental impacts on our individual health. I was really surprised to see how great the impact of the daily choices our ancestors made in the past could have on our lives in the present day. It makes me wonder what part of my own genome was impacted by my family history! Definitely puts things in a different perspective.

  52. After watching "The Ghost in Your Genes" and reading through many of the comments, it just made me wonder even more the influence of epigenetics and to what degree. Juliana Atlas' questions above rang similar to mine. How do certain factors, such as degree of severity and time, influence epigenetic inheritance/expression? How severe does a famine or malnutrition have to be to affect future generations? Is stress during the childhood of a mother more likely to hold a negative impact on her children than if she were stressed during young adulthood? While we know somewhat that exposure at specific times, such as puberty for males and in the womb for females, put forth a greater risk and that each individual is unique in their degree of vulnerability, it will be interesting to see if one day we could more accurately measure such risk through epigenetics.
    Also on a similar note, while malnutrition, stress, and drugs/alcohol abuse seem to be the most obvious influences upon epigenetic expresion, I do wonder what other environmental factors may be having an impact on our genes that we aren't even aware of yet.

  53. I found the video about how our grandparent's diets and life styles could effect our own genes and development very interesting. It made me think about how my daily habits could be having more of a harmful effect on my own body and lineage than I think. One issue that has been a popular topic among the health community is sleep deprivation among working adults. People are working longer and more stressful hours, which is effecting their sleep patterns. This then effects their physical and mental capabilities. This video I found is reporting a new study that was conducted in London about reversing peoples sleeping patters. It showed that people who work at night and sleep during the day are drastically altering their body's functioning ability at an extremely rapid pace. If changing sleep times is harming peoples' bodies at such a high frequency today, then what could this mean for their future generations? Will the lineage of these people be able to adapt and start sleeping more during the day and less at night? Or will their lineage be faced with more harmful genetic disorders such as the ones presented in the video "The Ghost in Your Genes"?

  54. From "The Ghost in your Genes" clip and also from our brief study on breast cancer, I have learned so much about the relationship of epigenetics and how environmental factors can affect the expression of certain genes. Much of this information has been very surprising. To think that, as said in the video clip, an environmental exposure that affected one's grandfather or other relative could influence they way their genes are expressed is incredible and also a little scary. Our grandparents did not have the health privileges of certain vaccines and other things as we do now. They did not understand to the extent that we do now how smoking and other environmental hazards affect our health. What I would like to know is if this "environmental inheritance" is also true for certain disease exposures. My family has a history of tuberculosis. Would the fact that many of my direct relatives died from TB affect in someway my gene expression. These types of questions are fascinating. These findings could also be very influential in health outcomes. People who expect to have children should be aware that their environments could influence the health of their grandchildren or even their great grandchildren one day. One of the first things that popped in my head after the clip was World War Two and the enormous amount of radiation people in Japan were exposed to. Could this affect generations of Japanese families and the way certain genes are expressed? The implications of this research are incredible.

  55. I found Angelina Jolie’s article in the New York Times about her family history of breast cancer and her own risk of developing the disease to be very compelling. Breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women, attracts a lot of attention in the media and is currently a field of interest among researchers. Most everyone, including myself has a family member or knows someone who has been affected by this disease. I completely agree with Angelina’s statement, “It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment.” Her decision to have a mastectomy must not have been easy, but I believe it was a smart decision knowing her risk factors. This article is important because it serves to educate and empower women to take action.

    A study exploring the epigenetic relationship between age and breast cancer risk has recently been released by the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC). Researchers found consistent methylation changes in DNA from disease-free breast tissue across various subject groups. After comparing the methylation in diseased breast tissue, the results suggest that there may be certain regions in the genome that are susceptible to DNA methylation and ultimately play a role in the development of breast cancer. Researchers are also working on exploring this phenomenon further with a larger study, as well as considering other breast cancer risk factors such as family history. I thought this article was very interesting and very relevant to our current topic of epigenetics and breast cancer.

    (Although I could not find the actual paper, this study will be published in the February 2014 issue of Epigenetics.)
    Source: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20140131/Researchers-study-how-epigenetic-alterations-contribute-to-age-related-increases-in-breast-cancer-risk.aspx

  56. "The Ghost in Your Genes" was definitely an interesting documentary to view. I didn't realize how complex the human DNA can be, and though many decades have past since the first research done on human DNA, we are still continuing to find new information about the mystery behind our genes. Things like different illnesses occurring due to the same deletion in chromosome 15 depends on which parent a person has inherited the gene from, or environmental factors that our ancestors had experienced many generations ago actually affect us now, is truly fascinating. Inheritance is just more than drawing punnett squares and calculating the chance of developing certain traits. It seems like everything has a hand in the development of our genes in not just our ancestors and ourselves, but future generations to come as well.

  57. When talking about the concept of epigenetics, I feel as if I have a pretty good grasp on the basic points as far as how the actions of your ancestors and relatives have had an effect on you DNA over the years, along the lines of what genes your body chooses to express, and how environmental factors can have a major impact on your future generations. I have this decent understanding because epigenetics was a topic I studied while taking Biology 105 last semester. We learned the main points about epigenetics but after watching the video "The Ghost in your Genes," I started to get a better understanding of how epigeneitics works on more of a chromosomal level. I found it very interesting when they started talking about specific diseases and syndromes, more specifically Angelman syndrome. They describe Angelman syndrome as being a syndrome caused by a genetic fault where a key sequence of DNA is deleted from chromosome 15. The result of this sequence of DNA being deleted left children with trouble be able to learn, and with no ability to speak.

  58. I, like many other students in the class, was most surprised by how easily our grandparents' lifestyles affect our genetics today. It is fascinating that a poor diet or starvation would affect the human genome; this is something that I previously believed was "set in stone" by our parents' genes. Learning about this evidence made me more interested in how our lifestyles and diets will affect our children and grandchildren. We do not have deprived diets like our grandparent's might have, but we are instead exposed to many unhealthy, high-sugar foods that have an abundance of preservatives and pesticide exposure. How will these types of foods affect future generations? I also found it very interesting how we can not only harm our children, but benefit them by eating certain foods. Eating things like omega-3 fatty acids, choline, betaline, folic acid, and other compounds can even create a child with unusually high disease immunity and a longer life. The idea of a “super baby” is the part that I think is very positive, but is also very intimidating. Here is an interesting article that highlights some of the things we should consider when thinking of our future generations.


  59. After this weeks lectures and readings on genomics, I have received a better understanding of how genes work, and I have become more interested in the subject. The fact that we are all determined by the way our genome is made up is astounding. I have always had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept that I am made up up a bunch of base pairs and genes. However I am getting a better grasp on the subject and understand more how it works.
    Because I am now so fascinated in genes and how genes effect who we are, I decided to look into the current research being done. Genomics is still relatively new and there is still so much research to be done, so I was curious as to what the new findings currently are. I found an article in the MIT technology review about DNA modification in monkeys. Previously, researchers have tested rats and human cells grown in petri dishes, but they were not sure if these DNA modifications would work in actual humans. Scientists have created genetically modified monkeys using a new method of DNA engineering known as Crispr. Crispr allows for parts of DNA to be deleted, inserted, or modified. Although this technique has been somewhat studied before, the new study shows for the first time that Crispr can create viable primates with genomes modified at specific targeted genes. In this study, the team modified three genes in the monkeys responsible for regulation of metabolism, regulation of immune cell development and regulation of stem cells and sex determination. These modifications have created changes during different stages of embryonic development, but the monkeys are still too young to determine in any physiological or behavioral changes have been created. The researchers are hopeful that this new data can be used to modify genes in humans and therefore be used to cure diseases and improve human health.


    1. Professor Chan, I originally e-mailed this to you on time but found out google chrome supports posting and I cannot post to BB so I wanted to post it here now to be safe.

      I found the article that Sarah posted about modifying genes in monkeys to be extremely interesting. It is astounding how far and quickly science and technology have progressed over the past few decades. However, while this research is vital and can lead to ground-breaking advances, it is also controversial and frightening in some senses. The discussion of human gene modification has been going on for some time now; the more research that is done, especially on primates so closely related to humans is turning the real science behind it into reality. While these advances are unquestionably profound and could be helpful in eradicating disease it also raises some concerns. The notion of modifying a humans genes for health benefits is a welcomed one, however, this technology could easily lead to "designer babies" and the like, creating a superficial population. Not only that, but as we discussed in another class, if we come to a point where science is able to prevent or cure all diseases the population will quickly exceed our resources. Sustainability, an area in which technology does not seem to be progressing as quickly could become farther from our reach. I do find this article extremely interesting, but I also feel as though it could lead down a "slippery slope."

  60. After our discussion in class, and watching this video, I was astonished that what our parents and even grandparents did and experienced in their life could affect our genes. I've taken a lot of biology, anatomy, and health classes throughout my lifetime and we've always discussed how our environment can effect the expression of our genes, but no one has ever mentioned how our grandparents environment can effect our genes. It's almost a little scary that what we do today can affect our grandchildren. It's a lot of responsibility. It also makes me wonder how all the pollution and toxins in the air (like what was discussed in TED video) that weren't around a 100 years ago, or at least not to the same extent they are today, will effect the genetics of future generations. Or the radiation we get from cell phones and other electronic devices. Both the Ted talk on place history and this video were very enlightening and definitely change the way I think about public health.

  61. Ever since my first cell biology class in high school, I have been fascinated with how genes work. It is amazing to think that each one of us is made different by only a small change in DNA. The one point that I have always been interested in is how a mutation during DNA replication can cause such horrible illnesses such as cancer. If a nonsense or missense mutation occurs and a gene is turned "on" or "off", that slight change could have great ramifications for the individual in which the mutation has taken place. Cells are constantly dividing, replicating their DNA, and then dying and making room for new ones. With cancer cells, they ultimately don't die like normal cells. Instead, they continue to rapidly divide due to a mutation that resulted in an "on" mutation. The DNA is then considered "damaged" and would normally die and be repaired. In cancer cells, the DNA, which gives directions to the cells, are never repaired and do not die and instead flood the body with damaged cells and weed out the healthy ones.
    In addition, on a happier note, I would just like to mention that I thought the video posted was quite interesting. To think that our ancestors' actions, eating habits, environment in which they lived and worked could have an affect on our DNA today is quite interesting to me. I do think it makes sense, which could be why people from different areas of the world are more prone to, for example, different diseases and illnesses.
    If anyone is interested in learning more about how cancer cells work here is a link:


  62. As several of my classmates expressed, most people - myself included - wouldn't think that our grandparents' environments and behaviors would have such a monumental impact upon us today. When I first watched "The Ghost in Your Genes," this information astounded me. I knew my grandparents could pass down their diseases to me, but I just hadn't considered the magnitude of how their behavior could affect me as well. My classmate Zack put it best when he said, "it's a lot of responsibility" to think that my lifestyle and habits could influence my own potential grandchildren.

    Many biology classes place an emphasis on genes - on how they're inherited from one generation to the next - but very few discuss the importance of the environment in which they live. My environment isn't the same as the one in which my grandparents live, and I know my grandchildren will inhabit a completely different one compared to my own. This frightens me, but this also illustrates the importance of epigenetics and how we need to have more conversations about it in the public sphere, and not just in academia.

    Leila earlier linked an article, "Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Gene," which I found it absolutely fascinating! Our ancestors' experiences will shape us, but we can also alter our gene expression through our own behaviors as well. As epigenetics gains more ground in the public sphere, we can begin to have more conversations about our behaviors and how they'll impact future generations. Hopefully that conversation happens soon - because right now, as I and my classmates have illustrated, most of us had absolutely no idea that our grandparents' behaviors could influence us to this extent.

  63. Epigenetics is a relatively new science that may change people’s attitudes on his or her lifestyle choices. Watching this week’s video on “The Ghost In Your Genes” really opened my eyes and made me realize how important it is to take care of yourself (in terms of diet and exercise, less stress, environmental exposures etc.) not just for yourself, but for your children and future generations. Many people lead unhealthy lifestyles due to a preconceived notion that what he or she is doing is only harming themselves and no one else. Therefore people believe that it is solely their decision on what they do to their body. We seem to think that our genes are passed on and cannot be changed, they are in a way “set in stone”; therefore our unhealthy behaviors are hurting us but are not affecting our genes. By discussing epigenetics and letting people realize what is going on above the genome, we can not only advance science and medical research, but also lead the way to a healthier future and a healthier generation.

  64. I think I need some further clarification on the mechanisms that are behind this idea of "epigenetic inheritance". I'm glad that in the video, "The Ghosts in your Genes", the narrator addressed that the critical periods for epigenetic influences were different between males and females. In females, it would be the womb because that is when their nearly-mature gametes are generated. Similarly for males, it would be during puberty when the males start producing sperm. However, that being said, the video did not give any clear scientific evidence how the stress factors of peoples' environment (due to famine etc.) physically altered the DNA/histone in developing gametes.

    Having prior knowledge of this area, I knew that epigenetic was heavily involved in maintaining homeostasis for newly divided cells (during mitosis) via regulation of transcription. However, making the jump that epigenetic influences are inheritable is equivalent to saying mutations in somatic cells are inheritable (which is obviously not possible). In order to inherit a mutation, it must occur in during gamete formation. So I was extremely disappointed when the video did not elaborate on the scientific evidence behind researcher's conclusions that these "stresses" were capable of being passed on. While the video established a loose correlation between ancestral stress and life expectancy, I was not 100% convinced that epigenetic has such a profound effect generation to generation. The video has certainly compelled me to do my own independent research on this topic, but I felt it was too sensationalized and that it did not provide enough hard-scientifc evidence/ give a proper explanation of the mechanisms behind their theory. It was a very interesting theory, but I think it needs more concrete data to give it more merit.

  65. Like many people have stated in different ways, the short video "The Ghost in your Genes" is definitely an eye opening video. Throughout my many science classes, I don't know if I've completely understood the detailed role that our ancestors played in my own genetic makeup. I have always known that my genetic make up was derived from my parents, grandparents and so on, and that things like eye color, height and such were things I expected to see in myself, or at least the possibility. I was shocked to know how the environment of my grandparents had such an impact on my genes. I am actually adopted from a very early age (2 weeks) so genes have been something that I've thought about a little more than the typical student. I've always wanted to know who my biological parents were so that I could see how much I looked like them. I'm always reminded when I go to a Dr and they inquire about my family's medical history, in which I have no clue. So I have made it my goal to start the process of locating my parents by the end of the year. Here's hoping for success! I'm also much more aware of the role I'll play in my children'd genetic make up.

  66. I had learned a bit about Epigenetics in a Developmental Psychology class I took last year. We also watched "Ghost in your Genes" and I found many of the concepts introduced in the movie very intriguing. What I understood the first time I watched the movie was that certain genes are turned off and on depending on the environment or the circumstances of your ancestors. In Developmental Psychology we didn't go over much more than the movie presented, so I am actually really glad we went through the biological mechanisms behind how genes are "turned on" or "turned off." Understanding the mechanisms behind Epigenetics makes the concept a lot more concrete to me.

    One example from the movie that always sticks out to me is the idea that if your grandmother lived during a famine as a child, which affected her growth and size of her pelvis, her fetus's head would only grow to a size that would allow it to fit in the birth canal. This movie stands as a good reminder of how complex our bodies are and how there is still so much left to uncover when it comes to genomics.

  67. The BBC Horizon segment "The Ghost in Your Genes" talks about the effects that the environment can have on your genes and how that effect and/or alteration can have longer lasting effects on the future generations to come. I found it very interesting and amazing that researchers were able to figure out not only that environmental factors have lasting effects on your genes, but that there is a specific time segment (sensitive period) during which you are considered more susceptible to environmental factors that are capable of creating generational changes. To be able to pin-point a given time frame during which your genes are more vulnerable to alteration is a very amazing thing.
    I also feel that these alterations, in essence, are related to the way in which we change or 'evolve' over generations. Animals are known to evolve to accommodate parts of their environments to better their survival chances. This evolution is also done over several generations and thus comes in agreement with what has been said by many students above. The environment effects our genetics that in turn take from an alteration and pass it on as a way of adapting and evolving. This way of thinking of the genetic alterations is, however, a lot more positive than the genetically-transmitted diseases that these findings were discovered from. Not all genetic alterations caused by environmental factors have a positive effect on the future generations, in contrast they can actually have a negative effect on future generations to come--this coming in agreement with many of those above's statements that we have more responsibility to make health choices because it can effect out future generation.