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← You are what your father ate: Paternal diet affects lipid metabolizing genes in offspring

You are what your father ate: Paternal diet affects lipid metabolizing genes in offspring - Comments

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 1 by Bernard Hurley

Come back Lamarck all is forgiven! I guess I must be potatoes and milk.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 04:53:45 UTC | #568286

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

My son...the cheeseburger.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 05:34:47 UTC | #568289

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 3 by Michael Austin

I know that I've read in more than one of Dawkins' books (currently reading that exact passage in 'River out of Eden' ) that genes do not learn from behavior of their bodies. Has that been overturned now?

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 06:05:41 UTC | #568292

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 4 by Neodarwinian

To late to comment about this now except to say that we have thousands of pieces of evidence on genetic influence and a few methylation events, among other pieces of evidence, for epigenetic effects such as genetic imprinting. Caution here.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 06:31:57 UTC | #568297

helical4's Avatar Comment 5 by helical4

I don't think this is a kind of Lamarckism. Genes don't save the experiences of the bodies of previous generations by rewritting the DNA sequence itself. Such as a parent loosing a leg during life, then having a one legged offspring. However, something similar could be going on not at the DNA sequence level but at the "gene regulation" level. DNA modification such as methylation, where the "C" in the sequence "CG" is a potential methylation site. This is primarily important at gene promoter sites, the on/off switch of genes. Clusters of "CG" at a promoter site, called CpG Islands, can be over methylated effecting a decrease in the expression of that gene, and vis a versa. One could think of this not as an on/off switch for genes, but as a dimmer switch. Histone modification is another strategy for gene regulation and epigenetic effects. The Histone can be modified in various ways such as methylation, phosphorylation, and acetylation (among others) and at various positions. These modifications can enhance or repress gene express in a region of chromatin where such histone modifications are present. It is not very clear yet how all this really works and is a very active area of research in the biosciences, the term "Histone Code" comes to mind here. I think the point we have to remember is that genes have passed through many generations, their host bodies experiencing many of the same things. Perhaps patterns that occur over 100 year cycles, times of plenty and famine. Epigenetics may be a way for genes to track these cyclical patterns over the generations, possibly effecting metabolism and behavior in an anticipated way. A strategy not based on consciousness, but on evolution over the dozens of generations.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 07:43:54 UTC | #568306

Saerain's Avatar Comment 6 by Saerain

Comment 3 by Michael Austin :

I know that I've read in more than one of Dawkins' books (currently reading that exact passage in 'River out of Eden' ) that genes do not learn from behavior of their bodies. Has that been overturned now?

Yes and no. Not from the behavior of the body, but from certain common stresses on the cell that don't necessarily fall into the usual deadly ruleset of natural selection.

The way I understand it, epigenetic methylation can create a thick heterochromatin that renders a gene inaccessible to transcription factors so that it isn't expressed in the cell. The underlying DNA remains unchanged in a more classical sense, i.e. the gene is intact and in a state that would otherwise be active, yet it is masked, or 'silenced,' and this is clonally inherited.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 08:09:23 UTC | #568312

Ryou Concord's Avatar Comment 7 by Ryou Concord

Comment 3 by Michael Austin :

I know that I've read in more than one of Dawkins' books (currently reading that exact passage in 'River out of Eden' ) that genes do not learn from behavior of their bodies. Has that been overturned now?

Yes. But it's not that big of a deal, it's not like this turned evolution on its head or something. Well. It's a big deal for me, anyway, I find it fascinating; But it's not like the epigenetic influences cause these vast mutations and the offspring comes out a completely different species or anything. What it mainly concerns itself with is the change in gene expression.

You're probably familiar with this since I assume already know every cell in your body is genetically identical. Since they all have the same set of instructions, you need to wonder how it is each cell knows which section of the instructions they're supposed to be doing. If they executed them all, you wouldn't have specialized cells for your liver, eyes, your skin, etc. That's kind of how gene expression is, except that you have the equivalent of a volume knob with gene expression.

To make a complicated story short, epigenetics studies the inherited changes in how "loud" a gene has been turned up because of environmental influences. Sometimes the affects can last for generations of cell, and apparently it shows that some can have an impact on an organism's offspring.

I remember reading this extremely offensive article about epigenetic inheritance in Time magazine where its lazy author inserted some dumbass comment along the lines of, "Scientists are going to have to rethink Lamarckianism!" (By the way, I'm not dogging on your genuinely entertaining quip, Bernard Hurley!) And the guy went on for nearly a whole page about how the principles of natural selection were threatened and shit. In fact, the article was brought to my attention because my friend down the hall had wanted me to evaluate its veracity and he thought I'd find it interesting. Glad he did. Gave me a reason to pitch a bitch for an hour.

To answer your question, yeah, that particular statement might have been a bit overgeneralized, but actually, I'm not sure scientists knew about epigenetic inheritance at the time Dawkins wrote it. And even if he had, there's not much he could change about it except maybe adding, "genes do not learn from their behavior from their bodies, but they may pick up a different attitude from their bodies" and then include a short blurb about epigenetics inheritance. But then, that might be extraneous for the all intents and purposes. As it stands, epigenetic inheritance is pretty damn new, and it isn't well understood.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 08:14:55 UTC | #568313

Ryou Concord's Avatar Comment 8 by Ryou Concord

Comment Removed by Author

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 08:17:12 UTC | #568314

SoHelpMeReason's Avatar Comment 9 by SoHelpMeReason

I'm...a cabbage in a pickle jar...well. That certainly doesn't explain the wiry frame.

Why...that means this research has to be false!

What do I do?! How do I cope?! How can this be...?!

NO! Don't panic! Don't panic, Ana: Jesus did it.

Okay, I'm okay now.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 08:38:37 UTC | #568317

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 10 by Vicktor

Jesus Christ. When is the medical community going to stop focusing on diet and start focusing on bona fide cures to diseases! Enough with the, "prevention is better than cure" mantra already.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 12:36:51 UTC | #568364

Rumtopf's Avatar Comment 11 by Rumtopf

Comment 10 by Vicktor :

Jesus Christ. When is the medical community going to stop focusing on diet and start focusing on bona fide cures to diseases! Enough with the, "prevention is better than cure" mantra already.

I'm pretty sure they're doing that as well, what a silly thing to say. It reminds me of the comments you see on news articles describing a small tragedy, to the sound of "Millions of people are dying in Africa so who cares about this cat being put in a bin!" for example. Like you can't have enough care to go around or something. The medical community approaches problems from -all angles-, as it should. It's not a "take one or the other, but not both" type of deal you know.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 14:21:16 UTC | #568397

plasma-engineer's Avatar Comment 12 by plasma-engineer

Being from a physical sciences background, I haven't worked out how to understand these discussions properly. I'm looking forward to a good explanation of the issues from Richard if he has time for it.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 14:42:10 UTC | #568400

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 13 by Vicktor

Comment 11 by Rumtopf

Sorry, but it's not often that I hear or read about actual cures to diseases from the medical community. At least not in contrast to things like diet and exercise.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 15:51:05 UTC | #568435

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 14 by Agrajag

You are what your father ate: Paternal diet affects lipid metabolizing genes in offspring

How does this inform our understanding of the son of god?
;-)
Steve

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 16:17:34 UTC | #568456

Rumtopf's Avatar Comment 15 by Rumtopf

Comment 13 by Vicktor :

Comment 11 by Rumtopf

Sorry, but it's not often that I hear or read about actual cures to diseases from the medical community. At least not in contrast to things like diet and exercise.

You act as though promoting a means to good health is a bad thing.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 16:52:58 UTC | #568476

Tyler Worthwell's Avatar Comment 16 by Tyler Worthwell

Comment 10 by Vicktor :

Jesus Christ. When is the medical community going to stop focusing on diet and start focusing on bona fide cures to diseases! Enough with the, "prevention is better than cure" mantra already.

You obviously have no idea how effective a healthy diet can be in preventing disease. Maybe if everyone took some responsibility with their lifestyle choices then the medical community could focus more on cures (not that the two are mutually exclusive). But you seem to be suggesting that it's OK for people to eat junk all day long and then clog up the system with easily preventable problems. If anything, I would say more diet information should be taught, especially to children.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 20:33:56 UTC | #568549

zengardener's Avatar Comment 17 by zengardener

So I am corn bread, mashed potatoes, soup beans, fried chicken, bacon and eggs, Lucky Strikes, and Sloe Gin.

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 23:30:22 UTC | #568603

Tyler Worthwell's Avatar Comment 18 by Tyler Worthwell

Comment 16 by Lowleyuk :

Comment 10 by Vicktor :

Jesus Christ. When is the medical community going to stop focusing on diet and start focusing on bona fide cures to diseases! Enough with the, "prevention is better than cure" mantra already.

You obviously have no idea how effective a healthy diet can be in preventing illness. Maybe if everyone took some responsibility with their lifestyle choices then the medical community could focus more on cures (not that the two are mutually exclusive). But you seem to be suggesting that it's OK for people to eat junk all day long and then clog up the system with easily preventable problems. If anything, I would say more diet information should be taught, especially to children.

Sat, 25 Dec 2010 00:36:12 UTC | #568621

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 19 by Vicktor

Comment 15 by Rumtopf

You act as though promoting a means to good health is a bad thing.

I didn't say that at all. I'm just concerned that so much funding, talent and time in the medical community seems to be spent on studies telling us again and again that diet and exercise are good. Now they seem to focusing on particular foods and drinks (or types of exercises) that lower or increase 'risk' of this disease or that disease. I would imagine that if more focus was put into research about actual cures, society would be better off.

Comment 16 by Lowleyuk

You obviously have no idea how effective a healthy diet can be in preventing disease. Maybe if everyone took some responsibility with their lifestyle choices then the medical community could focus more on cures (not that the two are mutually exclusive). But you seem to be suggesting that it's OK for people to eat junk all day long and then clog up the system with easily preventable problems. If anything, I would say more diet information should be taught, especially to children.

I do know, as the medical community endlessly keeps reminding us with study after study. You seem to be suggesting that people are most of the time to blame for the illnesses that befall them. I would bet that millions of people simply aren't to blame for their diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and whatnot - yet perhaps are made to think they are. I would also give society the benefit of the doubt that they won't start gorging themselves and their children with junk food and sodas even if cures to these diseases become available.

Besides, I see nothing wrong with science and technology giving us the luxury of doing so. Why should the medical community impose what is tantamount to moral judgments or 'commandments' onto people? If not for contraceptive technology, I suppose you would rather 'advise' people simply not to have too much sex too (lest they be saddled with too many kids and STDs). After all, you can 'lower your risk' through cold showers, and of course, the right diet and exercises. I hope for all our sakes (and that of our children) that the medical community uses the knowledge we are gaining about the human genome in the way I suspect most people in society hope for - not mainly to 'confirm' (once again) that fatty foods 'may' increase the risk of this or that cancer by affecting this gene or that gene; or that now even our father's diet may be to blame for our health problems.

Sat, 25 Dec 2010 01:19:08 UTC | #568629

hfaber's Avatar Comment 20 by hfaber

Richard has very forcefully dismissed Lamarckism on several occasions. I therefore think it would be reasonable for him to reply to this epigenetics stuff in his usual clear andd witty style. I think the point is that epigenetics can functionally be seen as adding to variation. Remember, neodarwinism is about variation and natural selection. It is the selection that directs the evolutionary process. Epigenetics doesn't add an extra explanation for the direction of evolution. It has no way of deciding whether the lowered expression of a gene is good or bad for survival. Only natural selection can do this. But still, I am very very curious about Richard's opinions.

Sat, 25 Dec 2010 17:05:36 UTC | #568781

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 21 by Michael Austin

Comment 20 by hfaber :

Richard has very forcefully dismissed Lamarckism on several occasions. I therefore think it would be reasonable for him to reply to this epigenetics stuff in his usual clear andd witty style. I think the point is that epigenetics can functionally be seen as adding to variation. Remember, neodarwinism is about variation and natural selection. It is the selection that directs the evolutionary process. Epigenetics doesn't add an extra explanation for the direction of evolution. It has no way of deciding whether the lowered expression of a gene is good or bad for survival. Only natural selection can do this. But still, I am very very curious about Richard's opinions.

Me too! I'm was hoping that we would have told us his thoughts by now (side note, does Richard celebrate Christmas?). Lamarckism never made any sense to me, but if it be true, I'm going to have a lot of studying to do.

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 03:49:41 UTC | #568864

zengardener's Avatar Comment 22 by zengardener

From what I understand, the scientific community is both trying to find cures to the diseases that plague us and promote habits that prevent them.

There is a limit in funding though, so I would hope that what cash there is, is being spent in the most effective way possible.

At a certain point we will reach diminishing returns. At a certain point, another commercial saying that diet and exercise will reduce the risk for X will not prompt more people to give a shit.

Have we reached that point?

A particular case comes immediately to mind. A.I.D.S.

A whole lot of money is being spent to treat, and hopefully cure this scourge, and that is as it should be. But meanwhile, People are actively being discouraged from using condoms.

Seriously, W.T.F.?

Ethically we should spend our cash where it will do the most good because cash is scarce. I think it is worth while to determine scientifically where the point of diminishing returns lies.

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 05:21:50 UTC | #568878

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 23 by Vicktor

Comment 22 by zengardener

At a certain point we will reach diminishing returns. At a certain point, another commercial saying that diet and exercise will reduce the risk for X will not prompt more people to give a shit.

Have we reached that point?

I think we're long passed it. The vast majority of people (with access to any kind of media) will likely have heard that fatty foods and sugary drinks are bad and that vegetables, (lots of) plain water and exercise are good; and that obesity causes or can be linked to virtually every disease mankind has ever suffered from. It's unfortunate that, given a variety of factors - e.g. pressure to publish, reluctance of funding bodies or industry players (presumably with vested interests) to fund certain types of research, lack of creativity and technical expertise among researchers (who might prefer to do 'easier' research), puritanism - we are perhaps not as far along in terms of bona fide cures to major diseases (i.e. ones affecting millions of people worldwide) as we should be by now (it's 2010 going on 2011, by the way).

Personally, I've always felt that medical science should - as its main emphasis or 'charter' (translated as 75% or more of total funding and manpower) - strive to look for cures even for people in the most advanced stages of disease, and restore them back to perfect health again. I am simply not certain anymore that this or something like it is what is really going on behind the scenes. From the public's vantage point, we seem to be hearing and reading inordinately more about 'prevention' and (in the best of cases) long-term 'treatments' instead of actual cures (almost as if cures to certain diseases cannot be expected to exist). Perhaps more people in society should be clearer and louder about what they expect from medical science; of course, without compromising too much the natural, utmost respect they typically afford to medical scientists and practitioners.

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 06:43:48 UTC | #568891

ellykay's Avatar Comment 24 by ellykay

Thats really scary considering my parents were doing a lot of heroin and drinking around the time I was conceived.

Tue, 28 Dec 2010 08:51:34 UTC | #569553