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The Amazing Human Computer

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Epigenetics

Epigenetics (Photo credit: AJC1)

Our bodies and our DNA is very much like a modern computer. I have said on this BLOG before that our DNA is like the instruction set of a computer (the hardware) and our epigenetics is like the software. Epigenetics “Plays” DNA to accomplish things more sophisticated than the DNA itself. Computer software “Plays” the hardware to accomplish things more sophisticated than the hardware. The analogy goes even farther. Computers using both software and hardware do interesting and useful things but can not do much without influence from its environment (data). A banking program needs a database to get at customer information, to change account balances, etc. It also has a user interface that lets a human control it. These external influences cause it to execute a series of tasks that become useful to us or a company.

The bodies DNA and epigenetics is similar. On its own it doesn’t do much but under the influences of its environment (data) it can do unbelievable things. Our environment is our food (nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fat), our positive or negative thinking (placebo or nocebo) and our belief’s (What we truly believe can happen). These external influences are data input to our cells. The cells then turn genes (DNA strings) ON or OFF via epigenetics. THis causes the cell to do what it needs to do (make another cell, produce more blood, create hormones, etc.). It also allows cells to communicate within themselves as well as to other cells in our body. This network and the programming is very sophisticated. Stress also affects our epigenetics. Living a stress free life is difficult in modern times but is important to health and happiness.

It is the sophistication that makes us different from the chimps. They have almost the same DNA as us but much different epigenetics. The programming makes the animal! Just like a simple program that adds two numbers uses the same instruction set (DNA) as a sophisticated video program but they produce very different results.

We are what we eat, how we think, what we believe and how much stress we have in our lives! Living this way produces a human that is happy and healthy. Living the opposite way produces one that is unhappy and sick.  Your choice!

 

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The Amazing Length of Length of Human DNA

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Cell Biology

Cell Biology (Photo credit: ex_magician)

Our bodies are truly amazing. Science sets the length of all the DNA in our 100 trillion cells as  2.0 × 1013 meters or 6.56 X1013. That is the equivalent of nearly 70 trips from the earth to the sun and back. Calculated as:

2.0 × 1013 meters = 133.691627 astronomical units
133.691627 / 2 = 66.8458135 round trips to the sun

One of the smallest units of our body is our DNA base pairs. Placing all of them (in our bodies) together yields a massive length (about 70 round trips to the sun). That is amazing. If we consider that this DNA is our hardware that is a lot of computer power. Epigenetic’s “plays” on top of this (software) to produce all the things our bodies need. We are the result of this vast database of knowledge.

DNAs Genius is in its Details

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Microsoft Windows Updates

Image by adria.richards via Flickr

Scientists have often wondered how DNA organized into only 30,000 to 40,000 genes (programs) could build something as complex as humans. It does seem strange at first sight but we have a man-made example that is very similar … computers! A typical computer contains around 100 to 200 instructions. These are mathematical, logical, moves and compares. How do these simple instructions get put together to form Windows, a photo editing software, movie editing software, games, etc. It seems hard to believe. Yet programmers constantly rearrange these instructions into new programs that do an endless number of tasks to help and amuse us. DNA is no different. Those 30,000 to 40,000 genes can be played (turned ON/OFF) in an endless number of ways to create different forms of life and to adapt to natures changing ways. We are adapting ever second of every day of our lives. Consider that most mammals have basically the same DNA as we do. They look and act very different from us. It is not what DNA you have but how you play it!

What are Our Children Learning about Biology?

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This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

Image via Wikipedia

We the public are usually 10-20 years behind what is really happening in science. In most cases that doesn’t matter since scientists are delving deeper and deeper into a subject. Our media picks up on an interesting story and it becomes public. Authors write about it and some people become up-to-date. Epigenetics may be the biggest change ever to science. It certainly is at least as significant as relativity was to physics. The problem we have is all our text books and common knowledge among doctors are wrong! Epigenetics changed everything. We are not at the mercy of our genes as previously thought. Our genes alone do not make us who we are. Epigenetics shows us that there is another level above our genes that controls the genes. It literally turns the gene ON/OFF and thus changes who we are.

When we look at the similarity between all humans we see that it is epigenetics that makes us so different a person. Studies of twins, with identical genes, shows that epigenetics change as the grow older. In effect they build their own personalities as they experience life. Even all mammals have very similar genetics. So why are we so different from an ape, elephant, dog? Again epigenetics are at play. Even though the genes are similar, the firing (turning ON/OFF) of those genes, is so different.

Talk with your science teachers at your local schools and see if they know anything about epigenetics. If they are staying up-to-date, they can prepare our children for the new science. If all they learn is what is in the text books today, they will be learning mis-information about an important part of science. In the near future we will be hearing more and more about epigenetics. The media will pick up on it. Doctors will hear about it and new doctors graduating from medical school will have studied it. We are at a crossroads in our understanding of what it means to be alive, to be a mammal, to be human really means. These are exciting times.