Stanford University Medical Center released a new development on stem cells on Wednesday December 15, 2010 called “Stanford study identifies multitude of genetic regions key to embryonic stem cell development.” This study shows that stem cells have areas of epigenetic triggers, called enhancers that will turn ON/OFF other genes in the cell. These areas are themselves turned OFF in a stem cell. As the cell moves into life it causes the epigenetic trigger necessary to turn ON these enhancers. They in turn causes other genes to be turned ON/OFF that will give the stem cell a type like muscle cell, heart cell, etc. The interesting part is these enhancers may be at a distance from the genes they control. This is similar to a computer program that sets internal switches while it is doing initial housekeeping preventing other parts of the program from running until housekeeping is completed. Once completed the switches are reset and the program can function normally. Programmers do this to prevent the routines from running prior to the complete setup of the program. This prevents errors and “bad” things from happening. Our cells seem to have similar safeguards. What do you think? Are we preprogrammed?

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