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Epigenome --- a letter to a med student

April 05, 2007

Here's a link to a letter that author Ron Puhek wrote to a young med student friend.

It's about the epigenome and how the lessons we might learn from its impact on the recent genome frenzy should have an influence on how we approach medicine.

Puhek is the author of the FifthWay Press line of philosophy books that I publish, and the host of a weekly meeting for "life studies" that I attend (where we read "big" books and try to "read" ways of living better from them).

Here are a link to more epigenome info: www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2005/08/68468.

Offhand, it seems like the main lesson in the recent discovery of the huge importance of the epigenome is that DNA isn't determinant. So there won't be hardly as many silver bullet disease fixes as the media told us not so long ago. The genes aren't the roadmap. The "bath" layer around the genes, called the epigenome, controls em instead. And---ta dah!---our behavior controls the epigenome. The circle is complete and our health falls back on us. Culture leads.

I may be oversimplifying.

Ah, but of course, this isn't the main public lesson that the Medical Industry is drawing from this discovery. They're just saying that we have a new opportunity for a whole new level of meds! Yay! ---But you know that privately they're going bonkers with frustration. If they fix your bad gene with a pricey pill they now see that your lifestyle can undo their repair. So now they're working on pills that affect the epigenome, but because it's behavior-influenced this sounds like a trickier kind of med, to me. Apparently it's also not as conducive to patent frenzy. The docs are saying they've "learned" from the previous genome frenzy---all those useless patents. But is this just PR? Maybe the epi-G just isn't as patentable!

How does this all relate to Thinking and OYB? ...I'll let you take care of that part.

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