Thursday, August 5, 2010

The humble truth of genes (1)

Gene has become one mysterious or even 'mystical' term
that often get misunderstood/abused
in nowadays wellness circle.

It's likely that
one may have come across health and anti-aging wellness companies
which claim that their products could target the root of the problem
from the genetic level.

Very often over a dining table,
we may also hear friends and relatives reasoning that
their diabetic/cardiovascular problems are due to genetic predisposition.

In academic field,
we definitely sees pharmaceutical companies
researching around the clock
to screen for the "Obesity" genes and targeting drugs.

While it's a good sign that
the general public is getting more exposed and used to the terms:
gene, DNA, chromosome, heredity and many other synonyms,
I feel a little bit more of proper education is needed
to let the public properly understand what gene truly is.

In an over-simplied manner (for easier understanding),
gene is, physically, a long chain molecule,
which is folded up and slotted into the nucleus
(a compact compartment usually in the centre of a cell).

DNA/Gene/Chromosome/Chromatin (interchangeably in some sense)
are likened to the brain of a cell
which commands all the functions of cells.

This is one reason why the wellbeing
of a cell or a person
is always related to genes, in one way or another.

However, this very fact is often misinterpreted by public
and subsequently affects their attitude/behaviour
towards management of their diseases/wellness.
Sometimes, it's even abused by commercial companies
to mystify/glorify the functions of their treatment regime/supplements/drugs.

How it is misinterpreted could be due to two reasons:

(A) the public is not informed enough that a disease is actually influenced by
      50% genetic predisposition and 50% environmental perturbation
       -o- a same gene in two different people, will result in two very different outcome,
             due to their diet, upbringing, lifestyle etc.
       -o- two different genes (one good and another bad), could also result in very similar outcome,
             given that the environmental factors are adjusted accordingly.
       -o- with little knowledge about the participation and significance of
             environmental factors in our wellbeing,
             there are biased views that our health is overall fated
             and not much could be done,
             and hence there is no need to manage health,
             as our body will self adjust according to preset condition dictated by genes.

(B) the public is confused (mainly by media) that genetic code can be altered
      or diseases could be rectified at gene level
        -o- there is such an approach as genetic engineering to modify genes to rectify a condition,
              but this can only be done topically to repair a specific tissues
              with the involvement of virus to deliver the modifying genes.
        -o- little that people know, this approach is merely done in animals in R&D settings,
              not yet in human clinical setting; as the success rate is not high (+safety concern),
              also, not all diseases can be treated this way.
        -o- with this knowledge, we know that in the market now,
              theres is no treatment regime/supplement/drugs
              that will solve a health problem at gene level.

More clarification on genes to come...

Kee Yew

{Learning Holistic Wellness for Wisdom and Compassion}
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