My friend Sean, whose comments you will see here on a thread addressing the Singularity, was named Mentor of the Year by people he works with at John's Hopkins and the IBBS. He demonstrates why that is the case in the aforementioned thread. He co-authored (I could say and he said he was proud to do so) my book on Integrating Soul and Science. I think his move to focus on epigenetics rather than his previous specialties of neurophysics and disease (Youngest member of the CDC that he was) is largely due to the discussions we had about eight years ago. You can see heated debates on the thread. Here is the IBBS site.
"As knowledge of the epigenome grows, we continue to learn more about how the substances we consume and the social situations we inhabit influence the way our genes are expressed. Scientists are already rethinking the way organisms evolve and how traits are passed on from parent to offspring. But at what point will this knowledge begin to change the way we live? At what point will we be able to take a pill and block or unblock the right combination of genes to improve our quality of life?
*While turning off aging and fine-tuning the human genome are pretty awe-inspiring possibilities, epigeneticists are far more interested in discovering ways to treat epigenetic diseases. As some cancers occur due to the deactivation of tumor-suppressing genes, researchers have worked to develop medications that reactivate them. The drug azacitidine, for instance, treats leukemia in this manner. Finding just the right parts of the epigenome to treat, however, can be like finding a needle in a haystack. And once researchers find the areas they want to affect, epigenetic drugs aren't all that specific. They might succeed in blocking or unblocking the genes they wanted to treat, but also affect other genes, resulting in potentially dangerous side effects.
Following the completion of the Human Genome Project, the Human Epigenome Project is currently striving to map the scope of changes that can occur between genome and phenotype. Once finished, however, an epigenomic map could also prove useful in determining which individuals are at risk for certain diseases and encouraging the kind of lifestyle changes that can prevent the wrong genes from switching on or off.
More than future medicines are at stake, however. Epigenetic discoveries also force doctors to reexamine existing drugs. Even azacitidine, the first FDA-approved epigenomic drug, was used previously to treat bone-marrow stem cell disorders. It was only after the discovery of its epigenetic effects that doctors explored its uses in other areas.
Stem cells are also of key interest to epigeneticists. By studying the epigenetic changes that determine how cells develop, it may eventually become possible to dictate what tissue type a stem cell will develop into. For more information on the implications of this, read How Stem Cells Work.
In the meantime, the more we know about epigenetic changes, the more we realize the correlation between our actions and, not only our own lives, but the lives of our children. As we peel away another genetic layer to find out who we are, what other mysteries await us?"
The plant kingdom has been providing anti-oxidants and flavorful foods that heal in so-called folk medicine for millions of years. In modern epigenetic studies we are learning more about why these plants provide more benefit than most people would have known for all of those years.
And you may think I am berserk to claim a connection exists with the soul or spirit, also known as the mind. But that is what I have said ever since I noticed the lymph system is connected with psychic points in my 20s. I could say I told you so. No I will say I told you so. It will be good to see the brain-mapping done at Harvard which shows yogis and mystics in states of esoteric bliss and healing, integrated with consciousness and this study.
"In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.
That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in U.Va.’s Department of Neuroscience and director of U.Va.’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions."
He added, “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. [It’s] hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”
Kevin Lee, who chairs the Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab: “The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.’ There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”"
The next link addresses research on cancer cells spreading through the lymph system. Suppressing this system which is vital to our health has many consequences.