Ghost in Your Genes is a PBS Nova special that dives deep into what is known as the human genome, or the epigenome. The “epigenome” is a vast network in the body that controls gene expression, the switching on and off of genes. As the documentary puts it, think of the epigenome as the “software of a computer,” the operating system of the human body!
One of the main topics discussed in this PBS special is the studies done on mice and rats to further look into how epigenetics can be observed in real life situations. In one of these studies, scientists observed the behavioral differences in rats that were nurtured and cared for by their mothers in comparison to those that were not given much attention or care during their early stages of development. These epigenetic marks placed inside of these rats could be very closely determined by increased or decreased stress levels and their abilities to either curb this stress or continue to change behavior. This human concept of changing environments and stress could be exemplified in the studies of these rats.
Another major topic of this special was the recent research and trials done on cancer patients that could lead to major breakthroughs in the near future in regards to “terminal” illness. In example, a woman diagnosed with Leukemia that left her with six months to live decided to be a patient of a trial drug and study. This drug that she would be given would ideally remove methyl tags (chemical tags) that were on her tumor suppressor genes, in order for her body to once again develop healthy cells and have genes that could code for tumor suppressing. This use of epigenetic therapy proved to work in her favor and she soon after was given another chance at life without a time limit on it.
In many different situations, this video was able to give its viewer a look inside the complex world of epigenetics. One thing that is clear is that epigenetics can be affected by one’s surrounding environment, whether that be based on connection between past and future generations or simply the care one has been given by a mother and father. There is always more to discover when it comes to the human epigenome, but studies conducted such as those shown in this video express the human interest in what makes every individual unique, down to one’s gene expression.
I encourage you all to watch this amazing video to learn more about the research behind epigenetics!: