In “Identical twins show the malleability of our genes” (New Scientist, 19 June 2012), Claire Ainsworth reports,
… for all their uncanny similarities, identical twins are not simply two uniform halves of a single whole. As Tim Spector explains in this fascinating and provocative book, despite sharing the same sets of genes, such twins differ in many important ways. These differences are giving new insights into how our genes and environments interact – and raise the question of whether we have more control over our genetic destinies than we might think.
Spector is a genetic epidemiologist who heads the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London. He draws on his extensive experience to explore epigenetics: the study of chemical marks on or around DNA that can respond to changes in a cell’s environment. Alterations to these marks can increase or decrease the activity of genes. Unlike genes themselves, which are largely fixed, epigenetic marks are plastic and can change in response to factors such as diet and stress. What’s more, some studies suggest that epigenetic changes can be passed down from one generation to the next.
See also: Identical twins are not really identical
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