Survival of the Sickest: Chapter 7 and 8

What did you think about the reading?

What can I say, this was a fantastic book and I am surprisingly sad it is over. Besides the fact my brain cannot harvest every bit of information I read, this book kept me thinking and interested the entire team. Yes, like any book, it got boring sometimes and you can’t expect a doctor/scientist to have the best writing techniques, by Dr. Moalem did a pretty good job. Chapter 7 and 8, like the rest of the book, were fascination and filled with information. I can surely say I was glad to read this book, and it is without question one of my favorites. A book I may even consider re-reading.

What did you learn?

In Chapter 7, Methyl Madness: The Road to the Final Phenotype, the first thing that popped out at me was that one third of American children are overweight or obese. That, to me, is an incredibly large number that I am not proud of. This chapter focused a lot on something known as epigenetics. This new concept I learned involves the study of how children inherit and express new traits from their parents without changing the underlying DNA. Basically, the trait changes but the DNA doesn’t. It talked about how the way the mother acts and the environment around her could affect the child, and possibly cause birth defects. For example, an experiment with mice was done that involved 2 groups. One group was fed normally, and fat yellow mice produced fat yellow offspring. The second group was fed normally, treated better, and was also given a vitamin supplement. Instead, the offspring of these were skinny brown mice. Scientists are mainly focusing on moms when it comes to epigenetics, but dads are now coming into play, as well. Lamarck may not have been completely wrong in the first place! It was incredible how important methyl markers are and how epigenetics really determine our traits. The fact that our traits can be caused by our grandmothers is crazy and fascinating at the same time. Probably one of the most interesting things I can take away is that offspring have a higher chance of developing asthma if their grandmother smoked rather than their mother. I learned so much about this concept of epigenetics and methylation, and it really makes me appreciate DNA and genetics. We are who we are because of our parents and grandparents. 

The final chapter, Thats Life: Why you and your iPod Must Die, although disappointing because the book was over, was so captivating. It focused mainly on dying  and why we die, as well as telomeres. The chapter started off talking about a very sad disease known as progeria, that causes you to age 10 times faster than normal. It is thought to occur once in every 4 to 8 million births. I learned about the Hayflick limit and how it is related to telomeres at the end of DNA. These telomeres hold extra information, and pretty much stop cancer. If telomerase, an enzyme carried by cancer, causes the telomeres to get larger, cancer causes cells to rapidly reproduce. Another cool thing I learned is that in most cases, the larger you are, the longer you live. Why? It’s because larger animals have a stronger ability to repair DNA. What I finally learned in this chapter was the savanna theory and the aquatic ape theory. The aquatic ape theory explained the evolution of our ancestors from a wet environment. The savanna theory explained that our ancestors moved into a savanna environment on walked on two legs. My personal favorite part of the chapter were the last 2 pages with all the questions and the conclusion to the book. “Just…Who knows? If we don’t ask, we’ll never find out,” Sharon Moalem. 

What questions do you have?

Let’s see, I only have a million questions. I wish I could sit down with Dr. Moalem and just ask everything I’m still curious about. From these particular chapters, I have some specific questions. How does the environment and the way the mother acts when pregnant affect the child? Where does this transfer occur and exactly how does the child acquire this if it isn’t through DNA? Is there a way to allow us to live longer? Will we eventually have longer life spans as time goes on? Can we artificially make our selves live longer and produce healthier offspring? I have so many more questions and would also like to learn more on methyl markers and epigenetics. Thank you Ms. Mathew for giving me the opportunity to read such an incredible, educational, and entertaining book!

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