Last night on PBS I saw the NOVA episode called Ghost in Your Genes. It is about epigenetics and the current findings coming out of that research. From this show I discovered that the science of epigenetics is finding out more about what causes disease.
I include here some background information about epigenetics:
The epigenome is a kind of “second genome” that, among much else, may account for the surprising differences that can accumulate over time in identical twins even though they share exactly the same DNA. 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? 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. Epigenetic switches may even help mold our personalities or so it appears to Canadian researchers studying a group of epigenetically modified rats.
What is epigenetics?
Jean-Pierre Issa: Perhaps the best example of an epigenetic phenomenon—you’re actually looking at it. You see, skin and eyes and teeth and hair and organs all have exactly the same DNA. You cannot genetically tell my skin from my eyes or my teeth. Yet these are very different cells. They behave differently. And that behavior remains the same for as long as I live. That difference, not being genetic, has been termed epigenetic. It is a difference that is not due strictly to genetic changes but to the way we utilize these genes. And so the same process that can cause such a profound difference that one tissue looks like skin and one tissue looks like eye could actually cause less profound changes that result in cancer.
What tells a cell to be a skin cell or a liver cell or an eye cell? What is the physical basis for these epigenetic instructions?
Jean-Pierre Issa: It turns out that there are two kinds of modifications that can affect DNA. One is a biochemical modification that attaches straight to DNA itself, the most understood of which right now is DNA methylation. The other key event is the fact that DNA is wrapped around a series of proteins called histones. If these proteins hug the DNA very tightly, then it is hidden from view for the cell. A gene that is hidden cannot be utilized. It is the same as having a dead gene or a mutated gene. These are the kinds of things that can regulate gene expression and also become abnormal in cancer.
The gene to make a liver cell is still in the skin cell, right? It’s just been turned off?
Jean-Pierre Issa: That is correct. All the genes are present in all the cells, so that the skin and the liver and the eye are genetically identical and contain the entire makeup of the human genome. But at any one point a tissue might utilize only 10 percent or sometimes 20 percent of its gene complement. The genes that a tissue does not need, or should not express, are specifically turned off by these epigenetic mechanisms, while the other genes that the tissue needs to continue to express are protected from this silencing.
What really strikes me is the following statement, because for me it explains the cause of disease scientifically:
“The other key event is the fact that DNA is wrapped around a series of proteins called histones. If these proteins hug the DNA very tightly, then it is hidden from view for the cell. A gene that is hidden cannot be utilized. It is the same as having a dead gene or a mutated gene. These are the kinds of things that can regulate gene expression and also become abnormal in cancer. ”
What causes these proteins to hug the DNA and how to get the proteins to release the hugging behavior in order to restore normality to the affected tissue are for me the most interesting questions. It was suggested by one researcher’s findings in the show that experiences are passed on through generations from our ancestors, in essence we inherit them and also we build up experiences in our lifetimes and this adds to our personality. (For those who are involved in transpersonal work this comes as no surprise). This researcher then postulated that personality and experiences were the cause of this protein hugging behavior and subsequently the cause of disease.
In the show they also reported that when they compared the DNA structures of identical twins of various ages, that the younger the twins were, then there were few differences in epigenetic changes or accumulations. As identical twins aged, there was shown a measurable accumulation of epigenetic changes. In twins of the age of 65, there were hardly any similarities left between the two initially identical imprints and even one twin had cancer and the other was healthy. Watching this program I became excited with the potential of this line of research to help us better understand awareness, personality, diseases and aging.
Ever since I had the experience when my awareness first changed and as it continued to grow, I’ve always had the question: How is awareness realized, where is it in the body? I understood it had to be that my body had somehow changed or awareness would not exist. In the last years, there was a profound change in the energy levels in my body, which I now see was the activation of what is known as Kundalini Awakening. This was also a profound mystery, yet I could see I was experiencing physical symptoms so I knew this was not a product of my mind. After all those years of wading through the layers of mental perception, it was a kind of relief to have something physical and more tangible, mostly because there was no question that it was psychosomatic or a product of my imagination.
My intuition suggested that the kundalini awakening happened because the free energy in my body – as awareness – was now high enough to activate it. I see it that as personality is reduced in influence, by withdrawing energy away from thinking and emotional reactions, the withdrawn and freed energy is used to make changes to the body. This process simultaneously also explains how awareness increases. I have no doubt that self-realization is a biological process and as the research coming out of epigenetics comes nearer to seeing personality and experiences as the formative cause, I think we also grow much closer to merging spirituality and science into one unified field. I see we need both sides of our knowledge in order to find answers that can helps us solve the difficult problems and issues we are facing today.
Because of the profound changes happening physically in my body, I started to wonder if my DNA was going to change. I then thought of a caterpillar and a butterfly and how different they look and knew DNA discoveries were growing each day. I searched on this and found out that the DNA in a caterpillar and in a butterfly were exactly the same! The article explained that what happens is that certain genes in the caterpillar are turned on when the conditions are right. Reading this, I felt it as truth for me as well; this scenario was what was happening to me.
Over the many years of doing meditation and of investigating how to heal myself alternatively, I also had the persistent question: ‘What causes disease?’ I came up with several theories and eventually arrived at the conclusion that ‘personality’ is the cause of disease. I have no doubt of this because now my body is in a healing phase of all tissues (that had potential for disease down the road) and of all skeletal and structural irregularities including congenital birth defects. And I know that this has occurred because of my transpersonal work, which has reduced the influences of personality.
I intuitively understand that the structure of personality is that which causes an energetic imprint in the body and repeated personal expressions in the body are what in turn affect the DNA. This is because the repetitions of characteristic facial and bodily expressions cause a tension in the pathways of tissues that are used to make them. Tension builds in the body in muscles that are repeatedly used and the decision to move our muscles and body in certain ways come out of how we think and emotionally react to stimuli, which accounts for our individuality in the body. As the repetitively used muscular paths of expression chisel the personality into our body and frame overtime, this also affects the individual cells and genes that make up that tissue. As it is above, so it is below… Our chosen bodily expression is what accumulates the epigenetic changes to the DNA (sections of the genes are in essence, hugged or turned off) and explains why identical twins get so different the older they are.
If one releases that habit or way or expression (mental, emotional or physical), then this changes the body, which changes the cells, which then releases the tension that was hugging the section of the gene. The released tension changes the genetic instruction for those cells and later after cell replacement a physical change is reflected in the body. So biologically, rising awareness is turning on turned off genes. The more one’s awareness rises, the more genes get turned on, and eventually turning on genes that one has never had experience with them being on in one’s lifetime. Like when the caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
When one’s awareness level rises, then one will also be healed, because the energy of the personality is that which is preventing one from being healed. Actually one is healing every time one’s awareness rises; it’s a progressive scenario. Continuing on the road of growing awareness, eventually every tissue in the body will be healed or enhanced in function. As the personality dissolves in influence, which is a gradual process of dropping aspects of non-reflected upon behavior, one’s overall energy rises higher because tension energy is released that was gripping a section of the gene in the associated tissue. Once the grip is released on this section of the gene, then when the body replaces it’s cells, there will be a change in the tissue due to the new ‘dynamic’ instruction for that tissue. This change can either be a healing or restoring to normal of the tissue or a change that has hitherto not been seen before. The later case being usually one of enhancement, such as enhanced hearing or eyesight, increased metabolic rates, enhanced disease fighting capability, new nerve cell generation, etc.