Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Bitmask in Your Body

PBS Nova's 'Ghost in Your Genes' is a fascinating documentary about the up and coming field of epigenomics. An excerpt of the program description pretty much sums it up:
"Scientists have long puzzled over the different fates of identical twins: both have the same genes, yet only one may develop a serious disease like cancer or autism. What's going on? Does something else besides genes determine who we are? NOVA explores this startling possibility in this program.

The 'something else' turns out to be a network of chemical switches that sit on our DNA, turning genes off and on. Called collectively the epigenome, the switches appear to play a major role in everything from how our cells keep their identity to whether we contract dread diseases." 1
This is interesting since the implication is that genetic predispositions can be modified at run-time, so to speak. Furthermore, while watching the show (and its wonderfully simplified illustrations), I realized that the process they were describing worked just like a bitmask! Kind of neat, huh?

I couldn't find the show on Netflix or Hulu. However, if you are interested in learning more, a preview is on YouTube, the transcripts are available and Amazon has a few copies on DVD.

1 Program description from PBS Nova (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/genes/about.html)

1 comment:

  1. I got lots of info on epigenetics on lewrockwell.com. Here is a nice one: "From the Genesis Garden to Galapagos and Back"

    "This switching mechanism is called epigenetics and it is actively in play every moment of life, influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, food, radiation, and surprisingly, behavior."