I attended a talk at Clare College entitled “the epigenetics revolution: why your DNA isn’t your destiny” by Nessa Carey, in why she discussed how environmental conditions, such as those in the womb, the food you eat, stress, etc, can modify our DNA. These modifications don’t alter the order of DNA bases, but instead change things such as the overall folding/ 3D shape of DNA or its ability to interact with particular proteins, thus affecting which sections of the DNA can be accessed in order to synthesis new proteins. In this way, our cells can respond to external stimuli – but this can lead to longer term effects too.
The idea of epigenetics brings up some ethical questions, for example relating to the lifestyles of pregnant women as their eating/ smoking/ drug habits may significantly harm their child.
Carey also discussed how this idea of epigenetics is revolutionary for modern medicine, not only as a basis for understanding the causes of some diseases, but also as potential drug targets.
Overall, this was a really fascinating talk.