Archives for: August 2009
The British biologist Conrad Hal Waddington conceived of genotype (your genetic plan) passing through environment into phenotype (the physical you) as a walk through an 'Epigenetic Landscape'. He conceived a mode of visualizing this process, in which phenotype development is seen as marbles rolling downhill. In the beginning development is plastic, and a cell can become many fates. However, as development proceeds, certain decisions cannot be reversed. This Landscape has hills, valleys, and basins and marbles compete for the grooves on the slope, and eventually coming to rest at the lowest points, which represent the eventual types of tissues they become.
The Epigenetic Landscape. (After Waddington, C. H., 1956, Principles of Embryology)
Waddington was a big thinker. Not only did he visualize development as passing through the peaks, slopes and valleys of the Epigenetic Landscape, he considered this process one of increasing constraint, or as being "canalizedâ€? as he referred to it: That the early choices influence the later options. If we think of the canals of Venice, the analogy works even better; our little gondola floats from one canal into another and then another. Each choice leaves it fewer options than before, and since gondolas need water, so we can't just pick it up and put plunk it into another canal.
Now just for a moment visualize a newly fertilized egg. It already contains all the wisdom and information needed to eventually go on to produce a completely formed human being in its DNA, but over time it must develop various cell lines (called germ layers) that can then go off and further distinguish themselves as arteries, nerves and organs. Its unfolding is stochastic (a process that is non-deterministic in the sense that the current state state does not fully determine its next state.).
"Stochastic" is one of those great words that is more often misunderstood than understood. It is often quoted as being synonymous with random, but the actual Greek seems to imply something closer to "unknowable." It's often used in the arts (very often in music composition.)
In short: We know it's going to happen; we just don't know what is going to happen.
Your journey from genetic imprinting (the genes that were determined at conception) to full phenotype (the physical you) is to a great degree a stochastic process. which is why Waddington's metaphor is so great. Any architect will tell you that a house almost never winds up like that original plans. Environmental variables (cost of materials, availability) alter reality as the construction project moves from one stage to the other. We cannot always predict the eventual outcome, but we can describe and learn about the landscape in which it takes place and that, to a degree allows us to understand things.
Hindsight is always 20/20, because the outcome almost always describes the process.
That journey started long before your conception, since epigenetic gene control is hereditable.
You are in essence, not what you eat, but rather what your parents, grand parents and even great grandparents ate. Unlike defective genes, which are damaged for life, epigenetically controlled genes can be repaired. And, activation and silencing tags that are knocked off can be regained via nutrients, drugs, and enriching experiences. (1)
Conceivably the cancer you may get today may have been caused by your grandmother's exposure to an industrial poison 50 years ago, even though your grandmother's genes were not changed by the exposureâ€¦ or the mercury you're eating today in fish may not harm you directly, but may harm your grandchildren (2)
These inherited traits can continue to influence the onset of diseases like diabetes, obesity, mental illness and heart disease, from generation to generation.
All in all, the next few years should prove most interesting...
The post-genomic era, which is fueled by automation and other technologies, provokes a change in our grossly naive view of genetic determinism (that single genes govern complex traits) to the obvious reality that most human diseases are complex entities. Gene(s), although necessary, contribute only partially to disease, while environmental factors, lifestyles, epigenetics and epistasis significantly influence pathophysiology and, eventually, the expression of transient biomarkers that can be utilized for diagnosis and prognosis. Human osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are multifactorial, complex diseases. The genetic inheritance of these diseases remains elusive, although they tend to run in families wherein some siblings have a two- to tenfold increased risk of developing the diseases.
From: Future of genomics in diagnosis of human arthritis: the hype, hope and metamorphosis for tomorrow
Ashok R Amin?, Seth D Thompson? & Shailey A Amin
August 2007, Vol. 2, No. 4, Pages 385-389
Epigenetic alterations have been known to be of importance in cancer for ~2 decades. This has made it possible to decipher epigenetic codes and machinery and has led to the development of a new generation of drugs now in clinical trials. Although less conspicuous, epigenetic alterations have also been progressively shown to be relevant to common diseases such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes. Imprinted genes, with their key roles in controlling feto-placental nutrient supply and demand and their epigenetic lability in response to nutrients, may play an important role in adaptation/evolution. The combination of these various lines of research on epigenetic programming processes has highlighted new possibilities for the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome.
From: Nutritional Epigenomics of Metabolic Syndrome
Catherine Gallou-Kabani, and Claudine Junien
Diabetes 54:1899-1906, 2005
1. Asim K. Duttaroy Evolution, Epigenetics, and Maternal Nutrition 2006 Darwin Day Celebration.
2. Montague T. A New Way to Inherit Environmental Harm. Synthesis/Regeneration 39 (Winter 2006)
There is something that the Japanese call 'Wabi-Sabi' and which they seem reluctant to define, particularly to 'outsiders' or Gaijin as foreigners are known over there. Wabi-Sabi is a kind of poetic quality, a nebulous feeling, sometimes melancholy, sometimes zen-like and blissful, that -they say- permeates the nature of things.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. *
Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional. 'Wabi' is seen in the lines of a face, the record of a lifetime of laughter or pain; the knarled trunk of a tree. 'Sabi' is literally a translation of the word patina; the polishing (or in some folks 'grinding') effect of time.I think computers can suck the Wabi-Sabi out of almost anything, since by their very nature they only allow entry to the 'expected' way, which is probably why we can't use them for very long periods of time without mental and physical health consequences.
Brian Eno once said that the problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them, and that a nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her.
Make sure that there is plenty of Africa and Wabi-Sabi in your life.
This is the time of our lives. The past may have been better or worse on one level of another, but hey, the past is past. 'Create each day anew' wrote Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, in the Art of Peace.
Is today going to be a success or failure? Only I can decide. However, if I carry the trials and tribulations of yesterday with me, what possible outcome can I expect? Many people have written me over the years, depressed and angry because they seem to fail again and again at following the diet.
Well, I need go no further than look at my own failures to know what at least works for me.
The trick to surviving failure is to refuse to be disillusioned by it. It is this gradual effect of disillusionment ('retreat after defeat') that saps the will and prevents us from enduring to the end in order to triumph over our challenges.
The first step in mastering this process is the least obvious. Don't make the mistake of degrading your failures by stripping them of their spiritual value. The ability to learn from mistakes and shortcomings is the most powerful stimulant to success that I know of.
It is also why most successful people are actually experts in failure.
Failures are always so much more interesting than successes from an analytical viewpoint, and it is a shame that our society encourages us to run away from them, feel embarrassed by them, or sweep them under the rug.
If you look at the origin of the word 'Aikido' it derives from the phrase 'the way of Aiki.'
Aiki is a blending and harmonizing energy, the perfect example of which is the so-called 'Tenkan Step', which is an entrance into your attacker that involves a step to the outside of his body and 180 degree turn and stepping back once again. What this does is place you shoulder-to-shoulder alongside your attacker so, for that instant in time, you both look out at the world from the same perspective and viewpoint.
Try giving a 'failure' the Tenkan step. Interesting things may happen.
The last few weeks in the clinic have continued to keep the old spark going. How much better I enjoy practicing by myself! No rush, no big administration hassles, no egos to stroke. Just patients and health problems. In prior times it seemed I'd almost forgotten why I went into this profession! In future blogs I'll spend some time detailing a few of the more interesting case histories since I do seem to be seeing quite a few interesting cases these days.
I've been joined by my friend, Dr. Ginger Nash, who has really brought a nice energy into the practice. We've decided to rename the clinic The NE Center for Personalized Medicine (from the prior 'D'Adamo Clinic') to hopefully get the message out there that this concept is bigger than any one person.
I meet this afternoon with the administration and faculty of the naturopathic college at the University of Bridgeport to lay the the groundwork for my Personalized Medicine shift in the UB Naturopathic Clinic. I'm very excited about this as I love teaching and as the UB clinic serves a somewhat underprivileged section of society, I'm psyched to put resources like SWAMI GenoType into the hands of people who really need the help.
If you are interested in becoming a patient of the Personalized Medicine Clinic Shift, contact the Health Sciences Center at UB for more information. This may be an especially good option for folks who are on a limited income as the total fees for the visit are very reasonable ($45 base charge plus $125 surcharge for all testing and materials). Of course it is a teaching environment, so you'll have students in the room, but as clients of my own clinic soon learn, much more information floats through the air when I've got to explain each and every aspect of my thoughts and plans.
I recently did an interview with the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges for their newsletter and website. Although they did excise some of my more pithy remarks, I think it is still a pretty good reflection af where my head is nowadays about health and natural medicine.
The last few weeks have been devoted to finishing up the SWAMI GenoType and SWAMI Xpress programs, working on my 1971 VW Westfalia restoration, and trying to fins time to get out and sail a bit, though the weather this spring and summer has been 'wet' to say the least.
It is a constant source of amazement that this website continues to be graced by the generous efforts of others. To all of you who have given so freely of your time, creativity and energy over these last ten years, I thank you.
William C. Boyd.
Perhaps a list of his partial accomplishments will demonstrate:
- Boyd wrote the first textbook of immunology.
- Boyd discovered the blood type specificity of many lectins.
- Boyd coined the word 'lectin.'
- He was one of the first 'paleoserologists', using lectins to trace the blood type distributions of many populations around the world. Boyd was the first to document that blood group substances could be recovered intact from physical remains of graves, such as from mummies.
- With Isaac Asimov, he wrote a book for the general public which was one of the first to attack the notion that race was a scientific fact.
- He developed antibody techniques, such as precipitation and flocculation, and applied them to blood group serology.
- He was among the first researchers to recommend the use of magnesium salts in the immediate aftermath of heart attack.
- Boyd wrote some pretty good science fiction (under the name "Boyd Ellanby" ).
Every time I venture into something, be it ABO blood group immunology, lectins in foods, anthropology, and a slew of immunology techniques, this guy was there first. It's a pity nobody really knows about him.
Best serologist, ever.