Environment modifies RNA which modulates gene expression

I’ve had a long busy couple of weeks, but today I read this and simply had to take the time to share it.

New studies in neuroscience are proving that RNA is directly moderated by environmental influences and it, in turn, moderates the expression–or non-expression–of genetic coding in our DNA. Integrative biologist Daniela Kaufer found,

“Under stress, molecules outside the genome change the RNA in new ways, trimming and rearranging it to alter gene function.”

Neuroscientist Darlene Francis couldn’t figure out why she ended up a PhD and the kids of her friends ended up in jail. So she started experimenting. For example, she takes away puppies of mother rats bred-to-be-anxious and gives them to mom rats bred-to-be-calm, and vice versa. What happens is that the kind of nurturing care the puppies get transforms them–despite their genetic makeup. The anxious-DNA pups become calm under the care of the calm moms, and the calm-DNA pups get crazy living with the anxious moms. And what’s more, they seem to pass on their newly acquired tendency to the next generation.

She’s now collaborating with scientists in molecular biology, public health, psychology, and even moral reasoning–this work is going to close the traditional chasm between hard science and softer sciences.

“Americans, Francis contends, believe that poor people are poor because they
make poor decisions. Francis believes the experience of her rats points
to something very different.”

Got this from an Utne magazine reprint of an article in the Alumni House publication of University of Berkeley.