The Falling Scales
Peter J. D'Adamo, ND, MIFHI
University of Bridgeport
Health Sciences Center
Naturopathic Medical Clinic
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.
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.
Hindsight is always 20/20, because the outcome almost always describes the process.
The Epigenetic Landscape. (After Waddington, C. H., 1956, Principles of Embryology)
That journey started long before your conception, since epigenetic gene control is hereditable.
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...
From: Future of genomics in diagnosis of human arthritis: the hype, hope and metamorphosis for tomorrow
From: Nutritional Epigenomics of Metabolic Syndrome
1. Asim K. Duttaroy Evolution, Epigenetics, and Maternal Nutrition 2006 Darwin Day Celebration. https://www.muktomona.com/Special_Event_/Darwin_day/evolution_asim120206.htm
2. Montague T. A New Way to Inherit Environmental Harm. Synthesis/Regeneration 39 (Winter 2006)
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