Inheritance, Chronic Disease, and Epigenetics
Currently, one of the biological sciences’ hottest topics now emerging into the public domain is Epigenetics. However, the practice of modifying and regulating gene expression is implicit in the ongoing practice of chronic homeopathic treatment ever since Samuel Hahnemann published the 1st edition of The Chronic Diseases in 1825.
What is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics is the search to understand and/or modify the processes that activate inheritable changes in gene expression, without directly affecting the DNA.
The field of epigenetics is not new, only its naming is recent. Combined interest in the broad spectrum of inheritance and stages of development goes back many centuries. However, by the early 20th century the territory had become narrowly specialized when the separate disciplines of genetics and embryology emerged. Subsequently, the return movement toward drawing them back together proceeded at a gradual pace from the 1940’s when C.H. Waddington coined the title Epigenetics by combining the terms genetics and epigenisis. The intensity of interest and rate of involvement in epigenetic processes and research has subsequently accelerated from the last decade of the 20th century.
Evolution of working models of evolution
Our understanding of many of the factors affecting the inherited and acquired characteristics of life forms took a leap forward with the publication by Charles Darwin in 1859 of his working model of evolution. He concludes On the Origin of Species with reference to “the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a struggle for life and as a consequence to Natural Selection…” (pp. 489-490) As well as summarizing the result of his own research, Darwin also drew heavily on the concepts and the working model of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), French botanist, zoologist, and evolutionary pioneer who formulated one of the earliest proto-models of evolution.
In 1809 Lamarck explained the nature of evolution as being controlled by three biological laws:
1) Environmental influence on organ development.
2) Gradual change in body structure and function based on the weakening of characteristics not required and strengthening of characteristics that are useful.
3) The inheritance of acquired characteristics
As the 20th century unfolded, the genetic inheritance of disease became established in 1910 with the publication of data to show the inheritable nature of Sickle Cell Anaemia. By 1920 DNA had been identified and in 1959 Downs Syndrome characteristics were found to be the result of the presence of an additional chromosome.
Meanwhile, following WWII support for the concept of inheritance of acquired characteristics progressively became a scientific non-topic reduced to the point of ridicule and disinformation. This fact was demonstrated in American high school biology texts of the latter 20th century that discredited the Lamarckian model by noting that if the tails of rats for 35 generations were cut off, the 36th generation would still be born with tails.
Recently published, however, and outlined below, is a trial demonstrating that nicotine-induced asthmatic pathology in a parent generation of rodents has been diagnosed in succeeding generations of their species. This evidence-based study is another one of an increasing number that is putting to rest the anti-Lamarckian disinformation, vilification, and scapegoating that was spread throughout much of the 20th century.
The background to the disinformation regarding Lamarck’s model that had been perpetrated particularly in the West may be traced to the emergence of international communism in the 1920’s and the subsequent clandestine ‘cold war’ between east and west that evolved during the 1930’s in the fields of politics, art, and science.
Genetics a casualty of the Cold War
The objective scientific understanding of inheritance during the mid and late 20th century became increasingly distorted and manipulated by the Cold War and pre-Cold War political confrontations between those nations backing capitalism and those supporting communism. This sad saga of international political manipulative spin, rather than objective facts, even reached right down to the teaching of propagandist biology in high school classrooms in both the East and West as well as preventing advances in research relating to the field of epigenetics.
The biological issue that became a pawn in the capitalism vs. communism political agenda revolved around the contention of whether or not genetic traits may be altered within any one lifetime so as to be inherited. During the 1930’s Russian collective farm crop failures were followed by mass starvation. The subsequent desperation of leadership lead to the over interpretation and over-emphasis on the use and disuse aspect of the Lamarckian working model.
This was due to it also being supportive of communist ideology of creating a truly ‘socialist’ human being devoid of capitalist tendencies and was ultimately indoctrinated into the very thought patterns of school children. Meanwhile, the capitalist West, in response, following the same pattern of indoctrination took on board the hard line of genetic determinism teaching its children that genes change only by mutation. As in most polarized “I’m right, you’re wrong” standoffs there were truth and error in the beliefs of each.
Due to the obstinacy of both cold war ideological opponents, it took fifty years following the discovery of the double helix for an emergent understanding to dawn that gene expression is also under the inheritable influence of factors not directly present in DNA. Having openly misinterpreted and rejected the implications of Lamarckian principles, the West has had to covertly reintroduce them through the back door as epigenetics so as to not lose face and status within the world community. It is an ongoing reality of our human condition that we would rather loose the truth than admit our errors!
The epigenetic implication of a recent nicotine pathology inheritance study
The study ‘Perinatal Nicotine Exposure Induces Asthma in second generation offspring’ Oct 2012 has demonstrated that:
1) Gene activation of changes by means other than mutation is inheritable.
2) The processes for switching gene function on and off are also inheritable.
3) Although DNA may carry the basic blueprint for inheritance, its activation is subject to separate inheritable functions that may ultimately result in permanent modification of genetic expression.
Pandora’s epigenetic box has been opened
It needs to be kept in mind that the contemporary field of epigenetics is in a youthful stage of development. The result has been that its potential for practical application has been over hyped by some of its most enthusiastic advocates and played down as a contemporary fad by more cautious observers. However, there is no doubt that epigenetic tinkering and technology is here to stay and has profound implications for the direction of overall genetic research and understanding as well as application in medical treatment.
For evolutionary and molecular biologists, it is a virtual Pandora’s box that has been opened into the very region that was previously written out of existence and distorted by 70 years of capitalist vs. communist rivalry. Epigenetics explains the means whereby the dormant identical script of DNA words, sentences, and paragraphs that exist in every cell are transformed into unique differentiated structures within living organisms. It is the collateral inheritable guidance system provided by the bundle of proteins surrounded by DNA strands that select and activates specific chapters and paragraphs contained within the DNA script.
Not only is fetal cell differentiation explained by orderly interactive protein on-off switching at appropriate stages of development but also how these variations are maintained throughout a lifetime. In this way, skin cells only reproduce their own kind and brain cells do not reproduce as skin cells. However, despite the extreme variability that is activated in outward gene expression, amazingly the gene sequence remains the same!
This reality may also be likened to identical music scores being directed by two different conductors. Each activates the same notes. However, their differing emphasis and stress upon the interpretation of those same musical symbols render significant variation in the audible performance emanating from each orchestra.
The implication for homeopathy
For homeopaths considerations such as those outlined above have significant implication in regard to their understanding of inheritable chronic diseases.
The intent of this article has been to stimulate a thoughtful and reflective response to the implications now emerging from the high-quality RCT trial previously discussed. It is one that demonstrates the potential for modern science to induce inheritable chronic pathologies pathology into laboratory animals. Utilization of this information will serve to raise the quality of the understanding of the inheritable transmission of chronic disease to a new level as well as providing insight not available during Hahnemann’s era circa1825.
Meanwhile, the conventional scientific community as yet has to fully overcome the untruths perpetrated by international Cold War politics. As a consequence, it is struggling with acceptance of the implications emerging from the nicotine-induced inheritable pathology trial. Entrenched beliefs and professional pride are difficult to overcome.
Currently, the capacity for gene switching to erase specialized cell characteristics transforming them back into undifferentiated stem cell status is one of the major areas of investigation by epigenetic researchers. This is the capacity to return skin cells back into undifferentiated stem cells. What may well be even more difficult for many would be for them to contemplate is the possibility that chronic and miasmic homeopathic treatment serves to activate gene switching in such a way as to moderate or reverse the inheritability of the traditional and the new miasms. Further, this practice has been carried out since 1825 to the present day by homeopaths who regularly engage in miasmatic treatment of their patients. Such is the nature of a therapeutic system that treats ‘From within-out’.
Lest we limit our focus to epigenetic chemicals and cellular plumbing: let us not forget the implication and role of the on going Life Force and natural electromagnetic field that continuously permeate and invigorate our body-minds. These vital energy fields influence every strand of DNA and the associated proteins in each and every cell of our bodies as they replicate to yield their own kind. Could it be that the natural body electro-magnetism and Vital Force also serve to modify even the nature and expression of the DNA over generations as well?
In the materialistic mind’s unending search for the ultimate god particle, today’s featured ‘holy grail’ of ultimate causation becomes yesterday’s ‘ho-hum’ effect. Meanwhile, a succession of new ‘grails’ continues to emerge with the passage of time. First, there were chromosomes, then genes, then DNA, and now the flavor of the moment is epigenetics. What next?
Aspaturian, Vernon 1961 Lecture in “Cold War Politics” at the Pennsylvania State University.
Following WW II, Professor Aspaturian served as Chief of the Russian desk in the Psychological Warfare section of the United Nations General Headquarters in the Far East Command.
BMC Medicine 2012 Perinatal nicotine exposure induces asthma in second-generation offspring 10:129 Sept 30
The Economist 2012 ‘Epigenetics and Health: Grandma’s curse’ Nov 3
Carey, Nessa 2011 The Epigenetics Revolution, Icon Books: London
Feilden, Tom 2012 “Not-so-identical twins may hold the key to disease: BBC News Oct 23
Jablonka, Eva & Lamb, Marion 2005 Evolution in Four Dimensions, MIT Press: Cambridge Mass.
An important study that will not be appreciated for many years hence.
Leake, Jonathan 2008 How your behaviour can change your children’s DNA, The Sunday Times 20th July.
Medical News Today 2010 ‘Epitwin: Largest Ever Epigenetics Project Launched’, Sept 7