Can My Lunch Affect My Genome?

Three meals a day is normal for any human being and then some snacking throughout the day for the common food lovers. Food speaks to the taste buds but is the most important source for the human body. Until about a month ago food was only seen for this purpose. By carrying out several different experiments, discoveries were made that the food was actually affecting our genes.

It is a commonly accepted fact that genes control how nutrients are broken down into important molecules, yet the opposite has been proven true as well: how nutrients break down affects how our genes behave.

The behavior of our cells is determined by our metabolism in which is a combination of the activity of its genes and the chemical reactions needed to maintain the cells. Metabolism works in two different directions: the breakdown of molecules to provide energy for the body and the production of all compounds needed by the cells.

Genes make up an organism acting as the “blueprint” for the characteristics the organism is going to express. These genes account for the internal and external makeup of the organism depending on regulatory factors. Genes can be regulated by other genes or regions of DNA, or by “ epigenetic” modifiers in which are small molecules that act as light switches, turning genes off and on. The recent studies are now showing that genes can be regulated through the metabolic network. These reactions rely on the nutrients a cell has available such as sugars, amino acids, and vitamins that are derived from the food we eat.

An experiment was carried addressing the role of metabolism in the most basic functionality of a cell. They performed the experiment using yeast as it is an ideal model organism and a much simpler to manipulate. Yeast cells may be a much smaller model, but many of its important genes and fundamental cellular mechanisms are the same as or very similar to those in humans. To carry out the experiment, scientists manipulated the products of metabolic reactions in the yeast cells and examined how it affected the behavior of the genes and molecules produced.

The results concluded that cellular metabolisms play a lot bigger role in the cells than previously thought. Nearly all of the cells are influenced by the changes of nutrients they have access to. And in fact, in some cases the effects are so strong changing a cell’s diet which changes their metabolic processes could potentially make some of its genes behave in a completely different manner.

This research goes far beyond just a daily menu. With these results scientists believe they can use this knowledge in order to research how we respond to certain drugs. In some cases such as cancer, tumor cells develop multiple genetic mutations, which change the metabolism within the cells. This could then affect the behavior of the genes and may explain why some drugs fail to work for some individuals. There is a lot of further research and studies needed, but scientists hope they can make a break through on drug treatments with these knew conclusions.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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