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Function of Genes
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curiosityclemantine posted:
Do genes determine all aspects of development and behavior?
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David K Walmer, MD, PhD responded:
I was almost afraid to respond to this question. However, it's a fun topic to ponder even though it might be opening a can of worms. The simple answer is no. However, experts from a variety of fields could organize an entire medical conference to discuss this question.

Identical twins provide a natural experiment to give us some insights into this question. Identical twins share the same DNA but develop into completely unique individuals. Why? One reason is that we do not express all of our genes. Some genes are turned on and some are turned off. This process is dynamic and appears to start shortly after fertilization and continues through our adult lives. In a sense, our environment influences expression of our genes. This is called epigenetics. Some environmental exposures increase our risk of developing cancer and others may lower our risk of developing heart disease.

This is an exciting area of research because it may be possible in the not-too-distant future to individually tailor medical therapies to individuals based on their known genetic code.
For couples who contemplate using eggs from donors, it may also be reassuring to know that the maternal environment may influence the development of their unborn children.

I'm not sure what sparked this question, but it certainly gives us an opportunity to discuss some interesting ideas. Looking forward to see what follows.


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