Sunday 25 March 2012

A14 coffee morning science question on epigenetics

Forget the stuffy image of business networking being about serious suited business people selling to each other. At its best, it is about conversations and getting to know each other in a pleasant environment which,over time, often leads to unexpected business opportunities.

It also means that the most unexpected questions arise as when Rachael Orchard of Nu Skin turned to me and, hearing I had a science background, asked
“And what do you think of epigenetics?”
I was flummoxed and had to dredge my memory for some faint recollection to give an answer.

I was prompted to do a it more revision over the weekend.

So what is “epigenetics”?

Well, you may recall from news items that we have about 20,000 to 30,000 genes, which code for all the information that makes us human. The information being “written” in our DNA. Now, a cell in your big toe will have the same DNA as one of your brain cells, and yet they are obviously very different.

Soon after your parents created you as a fertilised egg cell, in their hopefully passionate encounter, you began to divide into more cells as you started to grow. As the process continued, certain genes were turned on, others turned off. The effect was different in different cell or cell lines. So gradually some of your cells became toe cells, others brain cells. And when a toe cell divided during growing up to help make a bigger toe, these too were now toe cells. This is true of cells in all the different parts of your body, heart, kidney, hair and skin.

The process of your (and any other organisms) development is called epigenesis. The study of epigenesis is – epigenetics!

OK, but why is epigenetics relevant in a business discussion?

The process of epigenesis, of you becoming you, is not just a pre-programmed inevitability. What you eat, where and how you live can also have an impact.

Rachael Orchard is part of Nu Skin, a company that produces anti-ageing nutrition and skincare. Nu Skin has been working closely with and also recently bought a company called LifeGen Technologies. LifeGen Technologies studies the epigenetics of ageing. They have a patent pending based on initial studies on mice.

LifeGen Technologies have identified genes that may be affected during ageing. This will lead to studies to understand how this happens. In turn, hopefully treatments or actions that can reduce or delay the signs of ageing will follow.

This would be gold for the Nu Skin anti-ageing company

Therefore in this business discussion, epigenetics was highly relevant!

If you need to communicate complex topics to your clients or business partners, let me help.

The science of ageing is a new and hotly debated research area. Calorific restriction (giving less food) is one treatment shown scientifically to work in extending lifespan for yeast, rodents and dogs. Studies on primates and humans are in progress.

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