Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nature VIA nurutre

If you haven't kept up with recent research on heredity, population genetics or anything similar, the new Time has a GREAT story on epigenetics. Look it up and read it. Then throw away any simplistic ideas you have about "genetic inheritance."

If you are familiar with the basic idea of epigenetics, some of the newest findings may still surprise you, such as the rate of influence, the depth of influence, and more. Giraffes' necks aside, maybe Lamarck wasn't so wrong. Certainly, Stan Prusiner looks ever more right on prions, in light of stuff like this.

Obviously, we are nowhere near the end of discovering what epigentic findings mean. But, I think we can put paid to a few of the more outlandishly positivistic ideas of late 20th-century genetics.

Individualized medicines? Not likely to happen, and certainly not any time soon. You'd have to check at least some epigenetic as well as genetic factors. The price for that and an even higher level of individualizing the medications, would seem to pretty much rule that out.

Insurance, insurance, privacy, snooping, pre-existing conditions? All in a new realm now.

Drug testing? Some lawyer will raise an epigenetic argument at some point, whether it's legit or a red herring.

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