We have experienced a reprise of the fascination triggered when a new life enters the family. At the risk of being repetitive, we must acknowledge renewed awe of the traits and skills manifest by very young children long before the age of six months. Our visits to church, the supermarket, and other public venues supply ample observational opportunities. In the earliest months of her life we recently observed our friends’ daughter beaming exuberantly at us across the aisle during Sunday morning hymn time. On another personal level our new grandson, two months old, has been smiling and vocalizing enthusiastically for several weeks.
You may ask how epigenetics affects our knowledge of early development of human consciousness, the subject of our opening paragraph. Backing up just a few months before these children were born, one could also inquire how epigenetics relates to the marvelous sequential prenatal development of each living human. We increasingly hear medical advice on healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, and new treatments for personal health crises. Medical technology is increasingly the application of epigenetic knowledge.
Epigenetics has entered our modern vocabulary to supplement our more traditional knowledge of genetics. (“Epi-” connotes above, beyond, or in addition to when used as a prefix.) For example, the basic physical structure, health, and function of the body may be studied under the topic of epigenetics. Therefore, we have a progression of studies—the genome, the proteome, and the epigenome. We project that our knowledge of the epigenomics is only at its beginning. What is in store for proliferation of our knowledge and enhancement of our quality of life in future decades?
Stories and examples enhance our ability to learn new concepts. After building a new home we inspect the empty dwelling to determine its initial structural integrity. We establish that the home’s blueprint was carefully followed. In the following months the home will acquire unique qualities as it is progressively finished and furnished with enhancements such as trim, color of paint, and wall decorations. These enhancement “add-ons” are not provided by the blueprint.
Application of knowledge of epigenetics, likewise, does not alter our respect for the genetic role of the DNA code. To a large degree, environment and known gene expression mechanisms are capable of effecting significant changes in human health. These are examples of epigenetics, a broadened area of inquiry we will progressively discover in coming years.
In personal continued study of epigenomics, we are often deluged with bioscientists’ relentless efforts to connect this new knowledge with an affirmation of undirected naturalistic evolution. We look forward to discussing some of the molecular basis of epigenetic processes in future posts. As we discover more astonishing design and functional features of living things and their capabilities to adapt and reproduce, the case for evolution weakens as the case for past and present acts of the Creator becomes stronger. Our God is the author of the genome, the proteome, and the epigenome!