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Why are we who we are?

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Primary structure of a protein

Primary structure of a protein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why did we evolve as humans? Why do we have DNA and epigenetics? Why do we get sick? We are made of Amino Acids (which are the building blocks of plant & animal proteins). Amino Acids can be thought of as beads and proteins as necklaces. You can make different necklaces by using different beads. These acids have been found on many meteors from space. They are probably prevalent throughout the Universe. Life probably started very simply as Amino Acids forming simple proteins which led to RNA (half a DNA strand). RNA led to viruses and evolved into DNA which led to single cells and then onto all live on Earth. I believe these simple proteins along with Methyl Groups allowed life to adapt and form based on conditions and chemicals here on Earth. It adapted to the environment and built life from it. Life evolved into plant and animal and up to us. We are NOT the end or even the ultimate evolution. It will continue beyond us. It is anyone’s guess as to what that life form will be.

DNA without methyl groups (epigenetics) is like a piano without a player or a computer without software. It is useless! Epigenetics is very much like computer software in that it “plays” the hardware (DNA) in particular ways that do useful things. Computers have a little over 100 unique instructions in their processors. Playing these instructions in different orders is what creates Windows, Movie editing programs, databases, spreadsheets and word processors. They all use the same instructions but in different sequences that causes useful things to happen. Our epigenetics “Plays” our DNA  in different ways to cause useful things to happen in our bodies. It creates different types of cells (heart, muscle, lung, skin, etc.), messages to other cells (e.g. hormones), it adapts to changing environment (diet, exercise, thinking, belief and stress) and performs all the functions needed by each life form.

When the environment changes our epigenetics, it is trying to react to the environmental changes. Sometimes these changes are “Bad” and will hurt the life form (cancer) and sometimes they are “good” and will help it (health and resistance to disease). We can not easily change our hardware (DNA) but we can affect our software (epigenetics).

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Where Do We Get Our Protein?

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Eat Less Meat - NARA - 533914

Image via Wikipedia

All life is made of protein! I am so tired of hearing educated people say “How do you get your protein?” All life from single cell up to human is made up of cells. Cells are made of protein. Anything you eat that was a living thing (plant or animal) gives you protein. How did this misunderstanding start? After World War II we associated eating meat and steak in particular with the good life. The meat industry read a scientific finding that stated meat contained all nine essential amino acids. Plants contained most but not all nine. They started to advertise meat as the better protein, then the complete protein and finally just protein. Today scientists have found no difference in eating all nine essential amino acids in a portion of meat or in several different types of plant life.

He’s Not a Chimp, He’s My Brother

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A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London

Image via Wikipedia

On my way home from Rome this past Sunday, I looked around the plane and couldn’t help but think how similar and different we all are. We have 99.9% the same DNA as each other yet we have no problem telling family and friends from strangers. But then chimps have about 99% the same DNA as humans. Does that .1% really make the difference? I don’t think so. It is now understood that epigenetics play our DNA in different ways. So chimps with nearly the same DNA have drastically different epigenetics and get built differently than humans. Life started with simple DNA components, amino acids, then virus and bacteria and then single cells. Each was an advance in epigenetics that took the organism to the next level of evolution. Epigenetics played and even more significant role as cells grouped together to form more complex organisms. It gave each type of cell special encoding to do different jobs (e.g. blood vs. muscle vs. skin, etc). Where is the logic in this evolutionary plan kept? There would seem to be a programming language that changes epigenetic and genetic roles as evolution continues on its way. Are we the last stage of evolution? I don’t think so. We now have genetics, epigenetics and the brain’s neural network all changing who we are and how we operate. Tomorrow we will continue on this topic with a possible next step in evolution.

Can a Video game Cure AIDS?

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Foldit

Image via Wikipedia

To the astonishment of most scientists, that is what happened. Yahoo Games reports that scientists needed to look at the amino acids that make up a protein responsible for many diseases, AIDS one of them. The amino acid order is important but the way the amino acids fold (we have spoken about this in this BLOG) is critical to understanding how to destroy it. A video game, Foldit, was created and gamers asked to find the correct fold. In just 3 weeks the gamers came up with the correct fold that matches what happens in reality.

Who Programmed Us?

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art_4247.jpg

Image by MuseumofWorldCulture via Flickr

Was it God, nature or another intelligent race? One popular scientific theory is that life came to Earth billions of years ago as its building blocks, amino acids. They may still be arriving on Earth on asteroids. These building blocks formed simple proteins which formed single cell creatures that evolved into multi-celled creatures including humans. These early building blocks formed DNA and epigenetics. The epigenetics was a programming of the DNA to accomplish a higher rate of survivability for life. It also specialized cells to do partiocular tasks for the organism. We are just the latest version of that life. What will come in the distant future? Would we even recognize such a creature? Someone programmed these building blocks to react in ways that allowed them to adapt to ever changing environments. To grow, reproduce and increase the survivability of DNA. The programming is far beyond our capabilities to even understand. Who did it and for what purpose?

The Protein Myth

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Cover of "The China Study: The Most Compr...

Cover via Amazon

We have spoken about this before but I constantly run into doctors and read articles from our government that states we need protein to be healthy. This is true but protein is in EVERY living organism. This includes plants (vegetables & fruits) and animals (meats). Proteins are different from each other. There is an endless number of proteins that are manufactured by all life including humans to build the necessary infrastructure (cells, etc) as well as hormones needed to communicate between cells. The myth started because scientist saw that meat contains proteins that are made up of all nine missing amino acids (those not manufactured in our bodies and therefore needed to be gotten from foods). Plant based life contains a mixture of the nine missing amino acids but usually not all nine in one food source. Vegetarians still get all missing amino acids by eating a variety of plants. How do you think the animals got proteins made of all nine amino acids? They ate plants or ate other animals that ate plants. Humans typically eat meat from animals that eat plants directly like cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc.). This myth about protein has been going on for a long time. It is perpetuated by the meat packers associations that want you to eat meat. It is probably the largest scam ever done on the American people via a commercial! Not only do most people believe it but most health professionals do as well. When you remind them of Biology 101 that all living cells are made from protein, you first get a blank stare and then that questionable look. It’s time to stop this myth and get on with real science. Meat in general has been shown to statistically increase the rates of heart disease and cancer. Statistics can be altered by those that don’t want this information known. Our government should begin to do what it was founded to do, protect the American people. Take books like “The China Study” and “The Spectrum” and redo the science in them the shows meat can be deadly. They should either prove without a doubt that this is false or state is authenticity. It’s time to take our health seriously and fix the healthcare problems in this country before they destroy us completely.