Do the genes that you were born with determine your destiny? Or does what you experience in life shape the way you live it. Nowadays, researchers are very keen to prove that what you’re born with determines how your life would be. However, according to a Science Daily article, there is a possibility that what happens after your birth may change even your genetics.
Dr. Marla Sokolowski (University of Toronto), Dr. Tom Boyce (University of British Colombia), and Dr. Gene Robinson (University of Illinois) are co-editors of a special edition of a journal called Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. This edition contains papers from many different disciplines and focuses on how the early years of an organism’s life may affect the way the organism performs as an adult.
One interesting research project focused on how food depravation affects fruit fly behavior. In this experiment, scientists found two varieties of fruit flies – one with a genetic disposition to explore for food (“rovers”), and one with a genetic disposition to stay in one place (“sitters”). When fed a sufficient diet, both fruit flies acted and reproduced as expected. However, when the fruit flies were nutritionally deprived as larvae, both types of fruit flies searched for food like rovers. In addition, rover flies reproduced as normal, while sitter flies showed a reduction in reproductive ability.
This research shows that stressors in an organism’s early years may affect not only the behavior but also the genetics of humans. Research on humans
has showed that methylation in children who experienced abuse was different than methylation in children who did not experience abuse.
Research studies on animals and humans have large implications outside of the lab. It is appropriate that the editors of the journal sought research from a wide variety of disciplines. Studies on adversity during development could drastically change the way things work in fields such as social work, education, and counseling. Hopefully, further research could be used to help children who are currently being abused as well as adult survivors of child abuse.