If you are looking for a fascinating documentary about why people are the way they are, then I highly recommend watching Ghost in Your Genes! We watched this in class today and I was intrigued throughout the whole film.

In this documentary they talk about multiple studies, along with circumstances where the research can be seen in real life. All of the information is based on the knowledge of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modifications of gene expression, rather than a mutation in the actual genetic code itself. These changes take place in the epigenome, a system of chemical compounds that directs the cell as to how, when, and how often to express DNA.

The epigenome plays a very large role in the human body and its behavior. For instance, it

DNA is wrapped around histones. When histones squeeze the DNA tightly, this segment of DNA is “hidden” from the cell and won’t be expressed.

is because of the expression of different genes at different times that allows for cells to differentiate even though they all contain the same genetic code. The epigenome is also responsible for differences between identical twins. It is often seen that identical twins have different personality traits. This is because even though they have the same genome, the way their genes are expressed is different! As they grow older, their epigenomes get more and more different, causing more differences in the twins themselves.

Gene expression is also affected by the environment around us. Studies on mice showed that behavior of others and the external environment can change epigenomes. For instance, mice that grew up with less nurturing mothers produced more stress hormones than mice with nurturing mothers.

Information gathered from a Swedish village showed that the environment of someone can affect the epigenomes of their descendants too! Correlations between food supply and death records showed that gender and diet affect future generations. All of the data presented in Ghost in Your Genes goes to prove that you just can’t separate genes from environmental factors, and the effects are seen in generations to come.

I enjoyed learning about these discoveries very much. I found it fascinating how older people are more susceptible to disease because their epigenomes change more as time goes on, and there are more chances for mutations or mistakes. But, even more interesting, is that certain drugs can basically remind the genes how to work correctly, and in turn get rid of some diseases completely! This is an amazing step forward in science and technology, and I hope to see it change a lot of lives for the better in years to come!

This documentary opened my eyes to how much the environment affects us — more specifically, affects our epigenomes! The choices we make now can drastically affect our children, grandchildren, and many generations to come. We are the guardians of our epigenomes, how cool is that? It’s also kind of daunting — no pressure, right? However I do believe that this helps us realize the sense of responsibility we have; everything we surround ourselves with and everything we do now has tangible effects on others, both in the present and the future.

Check out more about Ghost in Your Genes on its official website here!


Images from…

“NOVA – Ghost in Your Genes.” PBS. PBS, WGBH, n.d. Web.

“Epigenetic Therapy (NOVA, Ghost in Your Genes).” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web.