Survival of the Sickest: Part 4

What did you think about the reading?

These last to chapters of the book I found very fascinating because it delved deeper into why we are the way that we are. I still find part three to be most interesting but this was a close second. I still believe her style of writing is what makes keep wanting to read her book. Her sense of humor and subtle jokes plus accurate facts makes a great combination for an amazing book. All in all this book was way beyond what I thought it would be. It wasn’t just some textbook about science, but an actual account of life. I have learned so much from this book and a deeper understanding of life.

What did you learn?

In chapter seven I learned about epigenetics. I discovered many interesting facts about the agouti mice and how  some genes can be switched on and off. I learned how there are many factors that can affect the way an organism gives birth. For example, the gene for a furry coat in micebcan be turned on and off depending on what time of year the mother is giving birth to the new organism. So the external environment does in fact affect the way an organism is born. I learned of the potential epigenetics holds to make humans a better race of humans. What I found completely mind blowing is how a grandmother who smokes can affect its grandchild’s life more than it affects the fetus she is holding. It also occurred to me during the reading that most of science is guess work, nothing is definite. To discover something new there is a lot of trial and error.

In chapter eight the focus was how progia works and who it affects. I learned how normal aging and progeria are closely related on the genetic level. Because they are related, it hints that aging is something we are pre-destined for. I learned how all cells except for stem cells have a limit to how many times they can divide. And the reason there is a limit, Hayflick limit, is because of cancer. Even though there is an evolutionary way to stop cancer, cancer finds a way around it. In this case the way around it is because evolution uses telomeres, cancer uses an enzyme called telomerase to make the telomeres longer, This way the cancer continues to divide without having to worry about ever running out of telomeres. Stem cells also uses telomerase which is why scientist think that stem cells may hold an answer to getting rid of cancer. Stem cells and cancer cells are like two twin brothers with super powers; the only difference is that cancer uses its power for evil. Lastly what I learned is that the reason birthing under water is easier than conventional delivery is because we may have descended from aquatic apes, but who knows?

 What questions do you still have?

My questions are if epigenetics can make us smarter, faster, and healthier would it be morally “right”? Why does a smoking grandmother affect her child’s eggs more than it affects the actual child? If progeria speeds up aging, is there a way to slow it down? Can the secret to not aging be found in a food that can switch the aging mechanism into the off position? If water birthing is known to be easier than conventional ways, why don’t people use it more often? Is it because of ignorance or not wanting to change?


4 thoughts on “Survival of the Sickest: Part 4

  1. To your first question, regarding the morality of epigenetics, it should be helping us all and we should support it, however I believe there is going to be someone abusing it. This may be observed through practically any well-intention drug, such as steroids or adderall. As steroids, should be used for physical injuries to make faster recoveries, however it will be found abused among athletes, to gain more muscle mass when unnecessary, posing numerous health issues such as cancer, depression and so on. The same with adderall, as it is suppose to aid those with ADHD, and correcting this condition, however it has become increasingly abused by students, especially those in college, to pull all nighters, though with its abuse, leads to blurred vision, raising blood pressure and heart rate, and other detrimental effects. As you can imagine, epigenetic could be abuse quite easily, such as giving superhuman strength or Einstein wits to one, or possibly a dictator in order to assert control over those he rule, he may order to have this technology to have methyl markers place on brain development, to stunt the intelligence of the population, to potentially prevent any uprising, possibly something similar to “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, in controlling the population as such. And I believe why water birth, has never achieved a popularity status in medicine is because it simply is not common, and not your ordinary, picture perfect birth (if you can even have one), on the hospital bed. Possibly that is why the water birth has not taken a stronghold here, in the United States, specifically.

  2. You bring up some interesting questions. Regarding your first question, I believe that it all comes down to who you ask. Many people would have differentiating points of view over this topic, each side with a good argument. Next, I think the book said that when the grandmother passed genetic signals to the mother, she is also passed those signals to the eggs of the mother, which would provide half the DNA of the mothers child. Your question about the food being the possible answer for switching the aging mechanism, I say would be plausible. However, if it is food and we haven’t discovered it yet, then I believe it would have to be something very strange or exotic. Water birthing is probably not used due to uncertainty of mothers because it is not common. The reason may be that mothers believe it isn’t safe.

  3. I was also wondering about water births. If it really is so much easier and less painful as Dr. Moalem makes it out to be, why is it not promoted more? An astounding statistic that the author provided stated, “Only 5 percent of the women who started their labor in water asked for an epidural- compared to 66 percent of the women who gave birth through conventional means” (204). This is a tremendous difference! Natural things are always better- in my opinion, it is not always the best choice to go straight to medications when one is feeling ill. I realize that birth pains are much more intense than being sick, but if a lot of the pain can be relieved by simply sitting in water, why not go for it?
    Your question about not aging is very interesting. What would happen to our lives if we never aged? Of course, diseases, illnesses, and wars would still exist that would take peoples lives. But without those things, and if we found the anti-aging miracle, could we truly live forever? Talk about getting a life-sentence! Of course, would this anti-aging miracle only be for the affluent (the majorly affluent)? Would this be another way to segregate the “have’s” and “have-not’s”?

  4. You have brought up some good questions. First off, I don not see why it would be morally wrong to use epigenetics to make us smarter, faster, stronger and healthier. For the question about how a grandmothers smoking affects the grandchild more than the child, i believe it does affect the child but we just do not know yet how. I was also curious if, using what we know from progeria and telomeres, if it is possible to change are genetics in order to slow or even stop aging.

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