Nature vs Nurture: The Role of Epigenetics

Genetics is pretty cool. Its complexity is mind-boggling and the study of it is at the forefront of science. The fact that a combination of four nucleotide bases (adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine) that makes up our DNA creates an enormously dense genetic code, leading to the makeup of every single cell in the human body is simple amazing. But can each person be categorized by their “code”? The answer to this question is that it is much more complex that we can even imagine. Aside from the “code”, environmental factors have an enormous impact on how these genes are coded for and expressed. The hot field of epigenetics attempts to answer these questions. What we know is that the genetic code is susceptible to the factors of epigenetics, which include DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and micro-RNAs. These processes can greatly effect gene functioning, regulation and thus their expression, permanently changing an individual. Psychological stresses and traumatic events during childhood can lead to permanent changes in DNA, which leads to permanent results one the DNA is coded for a proteins are made.

It would nice to if every human had a code that could be broken down and used to explain their inner workings as well as psychological processes, but the fact is that environmental influences can have an enormous effect on the genetic codes themselves. Very interesting stuff when considering the “nature vs nuture” debate, and how we have come to be who we are.