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indexA fascinating open paper was published in microbiome in 2013, and its suggested conclusions are now more prescient than ever, as the relationship between genotype, phenotype, and metabolic repertoire in the microbiome is understood to be non-linear.[1] The requirement for a certain functional diversity to ensure a well-functioning cooperative intestinal microbiota is crucial to break down various complex dietary compounds and divide metabolic tasks among different community members.

Nature Vs Nurture Debate Meets Godzilla

Monday, 14 June 2010 by | Comments: 1
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nutrition, infection, experiences, the environment and genes interact to provide alterations to the phenotype. This concept is referred to as plasticity, the ability of organisms or cells to alter their phenotype in response to changes in the environment.[1]

This interaction is able to be measured at the level of the actual genome by analysing epigenetic modifications, at the individual cell and organism level by observing the effects during development of the embryo or by changes in the behaviour of adults for example.

Traditional science taught us that cells were hard wired for a lifetime and that our future was encoded in our DNA, providing a neat ‘get out of responsibility’ clause for those patients wishing to explain their lack of willingness to engage in lifestyle changes as being a pointless attempt to mitigate those genetic codes handed down from their parents.

Modern science demonstrates that cells are remarkably plastic in their ability to adapt, and epigenetics explains how these modifications impact on our future decisions concerning interventions that influence cell and gene expression.

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Who Has More Genes – Us or a Grape?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010 by | Comments: 1
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The human genome project promised us much, a future return on investment that promised the resolution of disease and the careful planning of future generations. The enormous financial and scientific endeavour started out with powerful suggestions about the human having millions, then hundreds of thousands of genes. The thought by many that we as a species would not be the greatest source of genes in the living planet, was a thought to incompatible with our natural predilection for greatness for any to contemplate. Time marches on and as greater data sets are collected we are faced with the somewhat challenging news that chickens, are hard on our heels and that some plants are way ahead of us!

Although the near-finished human genome sequence now covers 99% of the euchromatic (or gene-containing) genome at 99.999% accuracy, the exact number of human genes is still unknown.

The reality has been a little more sobering and remarkably the figure continues to receive clarifications, in part due to the increasing sophistication of analysis techniques and in part due to different standards set by different gene repositories and the discovery that different humans actually also have different gene sets.[1]

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FAT? – I’m Not To Blame It’s My Genes!

Sunday, 04 April 2010 by | Comments: 4
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Michael Ash BSc(Hons) DO ND FDipION reviews a selection of papers exploring the intersection between our genetic code and the style of food ingested in ever increasing amounts, in which fat and sugar make up the dominant components.

It’s clear from numerous studies that a sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in fat and sugar have profound effects on human mortality and morbidity through adverse weight gain.[1] The enormous human genome project, started in 2000 has also thrown up a number of markers in our approximately 21,000 genes related to an historical adaptive need to store fat when food was scarce and starvation an ever present threat. Some have interpreted this by saying that the reason they are obese or cannot lose weight is down to their genes, and that this may in turn abrogate them from actively altering lifestyle patterns, others have questioned the accuracy or validity of this causal relationship. [2],[3]

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Gastroenterology journal coverCoeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Currently, the only treatment available is the adoption of a lifelong gluten free diet, which is made particularly challenging due to the ubiquity of wheat in western diets. It is an excellent example of environmental challenge meeting gene susceptibility, and is a unique example of how exclusion of an environmental trigger can resolve the symptoms.