HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and share it with friends and family.

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Healing Ferguson

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As an older white man I know I cannot truly appreciate the feelings of the African-American people in Ferguson, Missouri. And I cannot appreciate the feelings of Americans across the nation who believe that the Grand Jury decision was wrong. Still, my heart goes out to Michael Brown’s parents, family and friends. They are also victims and deserve our compassion. I am sorry for your loss.

When we believe injustice has been done, we must try to correct it by protesting against it. But those who protest violently against it by burning cars and looting the businesses of innocent citizens are making a mistake. They think they are calling attention to the injustice. But all they are doing is distracting us from one injustice by creating other injustices. Rioting is a distraction because it makes the first injustice a secondary issue. It steals the attention from the original issue.

If our house is on fire, we call the fire department. When the fire department arrives, do they light more fires? Of course not! They use water to put out the flames. Only after the flames are extinguished can the investigation determine the cause of the fire.

In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s tragedy we need to extinguish the flames of hatred and violence with the waters of peace and love for our fellow man. We must view Michael Brown’s tragedy objectively and learn how to prevent similar future occurrences from happening. We must change our view of the world and the people in it by realizing we are all God’s children. We must show love and compassion, not just when tragedy strikes, but every day, in the attitudes we express as we live our lives. Everyone must do this, regardless of color, religion or national origins.

May God shower us with His love and show us the way to resolve this issue to the satisfaction of all the people who live in the United States of America.

Our Ancestors, Our DNA, Our Choice

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As with the previous blog, this information is taken from the article Annotating the Book of Life by Regina Nuzzo.

Having seen how the environment affects the annotations of the DNA in our cells, we must ask “Is our DNA affected by our choices?” Early answers seem to affirm that idea. Research on laboratory mice indicates that the DNA of mice, neglected when they were young, changes for the better when they are later placed in a nurturing environment. Follow up showed that most of the negative annotations cause by neglect were erased by the nurturing change.

A study of experienced meditators showed that their inflammation-controlling genes changed in positive ways that are thought to improve the meditators’ responses to stress. This change was accomplished by their attendance at an eight hour seminar on breathing meditation. Imagine how daily meditation is improving their lives.

While epigenetics is in its infancy, preliminary results such as these are encouraging. It suggests that, just as the behavior of our ancestors has influenced our lives today, we have the opportunity to make positive choices that will improve the genes we will pass on to succeeding generations. We’re not talking only about physical health. Our choices can affect the mental, physical and emotional health of all people who will carry our genes in the future. Of course succeeding generations will have the same choices to make, just as we do today. Still, it is up to us to make healthy choices so we are doing our part for our descendants. Granted, we can only affect our part of the world. This early evidence tells us we can make a small difference. But logic indicates that if everyone makes better choices, the world will become a better place.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”   –  Mahatma Gandhi

 

Our Ancestors, Our DNA, Our Environment

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The source for this blog is Annotating the Book of Life, by Regina Nuzza, as published by Time Magazine in their current Special Edition. Her article is on page 48.

Early on scientists asked the question: “If the DNA in each of our cells is the same, how come one cell becomes part of a hand and one becomes part of an ear.” They found the answer was that there are chemicals associated with the DNA that tell each cell how to develop. The chemicals are referred to as annotations. Interestingly, these chemicals can be modified by our behavior: what we eat; what we drink; what we smoke, inhale and even feel. Normally individual annotations last for only a day or two. Repeated annotations, what we could think of as habits, have a more prolonged effect. Let’s look at two examples.

One study of mice focused on male mice that had fatty diets. Mouse fathers that had early signs of diabetes produced pups more prone to diabetes themselves. The female mice the sired  had changes in pancreatic genes and had problems regulating insulin and glucose levels. It suggests the mouse fathers had epigenetic signatures in the sperm they produced.

Another study concerned the people of Holland who were alive during the winter of 1944, when the Nazis blockades cut down the food supply forcing them to eat tulip bulbs and grass; giving them an average of only 500 calories a day. Their children, who were conceived during this time had higher risks of obesity, heart disease and diabetes 660 years later, even though they were well fed after they were born.

This sounds like a negative outlook on our heredity and the vicissitudes of life but there is another side to the coin of epigenetics: improving the environment has a positive effect, through epigenetics, on our lives.

Next Blog: Our responsibility is to make the choices which are healthy for ourselves as well as our descendants.

 

 

 

Our Ancestors, Our DNA

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In their most recent Special edition Time Magazine has focused on “How DNA Shapes Your Life”. There are twenty articles contributed by several writers containing the latest information about DNA. One article that caught my eye was “Annotating The Book Of Life” by Regina Nuzzo on page 48. In the first paragraph Nuzzo asks, “What if DNA is not your destiny?”

Once DNA was thought to be a set road map of our lives. Scientists now realize that we can affect portions of our DNA. Nuzzo writes (page 48), “That’s right, choices you made as a teenager could reach forward in time to affect the health of still-unborn descendants, and your own biological makeup likely reflects the experiences and environment your parents and grandparents encountered long before you were a twinkling in any of their eyes.”

These ideas come from a new field in biology called epigenetics, the study of how genes are affected by outside influences. This field of study raises new questions. How can environment affect, not the structure of DNA, but the genes within the DNA structure? Do these genes change quickly or over time?  Since some of our life-style choices can affect our choice of environment, do these choices also affect genes? Taking the question a step farther, which of our other choices have an affect on gene structures? Underlying these questions is the most important question: If our choices are affecting our genes, is it logical to suggest that we are, in fact, selecting our own path along the evolutionary trail of life? Or, put another way, is this an example of how we are co-creators with God? And hidden within these questions is the question of our responsibility of choice in connection with our descendants.

Next Blog: Examples of environmental effects on genes.