Genetics: New Insight into Inheritable Disease and Treatment

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017

Many patients, when faced with the seriousness of their health problems, have been led to believe that these health problems are preordained within their genes. This attitude has led to a society that often feels that their only hope is to manage their inherited and preordained health problems with drugs, rather than work on their health and do the many positive therapeutic actions that can correct their problems. A wealth of recent research in genetics has revealed that our genetic design is not static, but rather a fluid and variable expression that is dependent on many factors that are able to be altered by our choices in life, primarily affecting the epigenome and its control of our genetic trait switches and interactions.

Study and mapping of the human genome has revealed the astounding complexity of genetic data, control and expression, and does not support the oversimplified explanations that we have received for disease in the last century. In fact, such study now reveals that two separate genomes exist in each of our cells, that of the human organism, and that of the symbiotic mitochondria, once a separate microorganism, but now responsible for much of our energy. The genetic code of our symbiotic Biome, which includes helpful bacteria that our body depends on and outnumbers our human cells 10 to 1, and is now called the "second genome" as well, presents an even more complex set of genetic data that interacts with our human genetic code, and the epigene, or molecules that surround our main genetic DNA, and which our main set of DNA, in the form of a double helix, wraps around (histones), actually exerts much control over the fluid expression of our main genetic traits. Even the main human DNA, 97 percent of which has been considered "junk DNA" by our biological scientists until the last decade or so, exerts much control over the expression of our main 23 chromosomes, and is continuously evolving with the addition of DNA and RNA from viruses, which may be considered the fluid genetic code of our whole world. In fact, human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) make up 8 percent of the human genome, and if retroviral fragments and derivatives are considered, this endogenous retroviral data makes up roughly half of our human DNA. 

The explanation of our inheritable genetic code that we grew up with was astoundingly oversimplified. There is no question of "nature versus nurture", only one of how nature nurtures our human genetic data, and what we can do to help it. Our world has a Oneness to it that we must embrace to truly understand ourselves, with the whole environmental interplay constantly affecting our homeostasis, our health, and our continuing evolution, and we must consider our individual health with a more holistic attitude. Our natural tendency has been to assume the simplest explanation and focus on just one aspect of our biological being. Oversimplification is convenient but not helpful in designing our healthcare, though. Hopefully, we will achieve much with gene therapies, but the reality is that we need to realize how little we understand of a very complex subject. On the the other hand, we can use what we already know of natural balance and restoration of homeostatic functions to also achieve our goals in healthcare. 

A January 2012 issue of National Geographic is devoted to the current science of identical twins and the inherited outcomes of individuals born with exactly the same basic genes. Many of the traits in identical twins, both physical and mental, mature in remarkably similar ways, yet in some cases, the outcomes of genetic expression are radically different. Andrew Feinberg is the director for the Center for Epigenetics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Feinberg reveals that the question of how our genes will express is not answered in a binary manner, often referred to as "Nature versus Nurture". Instead, a vast array of variables in genetic expression exist, mostly in the array of molecules that surround the genes, called the epigenome. Dr. Feinberg's studies reveal that many environmental factors, including diet, medical treatment, physical activity, environmental toxins, and even behavioral and cognitive activities, for example emotional traumas, can alter the expression of our genes, even in the womb. Studies of identical twins separated at birth reveal that they often have radically different epigenomes, with some of the epigenetic differences apparently even developing in the womb in response to extrinsic environmental factors. Identical twins inherit identical human genomes, linked potentially to almost any trait, even cognitive and behavioral habits, but these traits may be altered or switched off by factors extrinsic to the human genome itself. While these genetic expressions often result in astounding developmental similarities in genetically identical twins, the same genetic propensities may be altered by both extrinsic factors and intrinsic biochemical mechanisms. This phenomena is explained to a great extent by the epigenome. Dr. Feinberg has found that epigenetic expression determines how a set genetic code is expressed. Some of these regulating epigenetic expressions follow standard courses, guiding embryonic cells to develop into the necessary array of specialized organ and musculoskeletal cells, while many of them appear to occur randomly, and others as a reaction to environmental factors.

A 2014 meta-analysis of many studies of identical twins, published in the journal Nature Genetics, arrived at the conclusion that the impact of genetic propensity and environmental factors was equal on the expression of traits of identical twins, many separated at birth and raised in different environments. The study of identical twins separated at birth has allowed scientists to see exactly how the environmental factors affect the outcome of genetic traits, of which some 17,000 have been identified. An article in the July 14 New York Times Sunday Magazine, following two such sets of twins, born in the same hospital and mistakenly paired, each half of the set raised as brothers, one set in rural Columbia on a poor farm in the mountains, and one set in a middle class section of Bogota, revealed first hand how the genetic similarities are striking, but the differences as well. While most scientists have only emphasized that remarkable array of traits linked to genetic data, more and more scientists in the field are amazed at the evidence of how environmental factors can create much different outcomes, even for two individuals with identical genes. This article points out how Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London is generating a huge global registry of identical twins where only one of the identical twins has acquired a specific disease, and is investigating the environmental factors that prevented or induced the disease, to provide us with helpful treatment information in holistic preventive medicine and treatment. Other scientists cited, such as Jeffrey Craig, who studies epigenetics at Murdoch Childrens' Research Institute in Australia, are also trying to compile objective information that can be used to provide prevention and care with a holistic perspective.

A 2015 research study at Mt. Sinai concluded the search for individuals who have inherited a strong genetic cause of disease but who did not acquire the disease, hoping in the first study of this kind to find genetic mutations that would infer avoidance of the disease. The study, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, and headed by Dr. Stephen Friend, searched 12 databases and found nearly 16,000 patients who might fit this criteria, but were only able to find 13 of 16,000 that were viable, or who had genetic mutations of 8 inheritable diseases but did not develop the disease as expected. Unfortunately, the patients in these databases remain anonymous, and another huge study of patients with inheritable diseases who volunteer to have their genes studied and published will need to be conducted, with millions of samples needed. This will be almost impossible, and even if accomplished, the analysis of genetic mutations to find something clear and usable to create a potential treatment in the far future will be very difficult. Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University in St. Louis noted in a New York Time article that each person has at least 200 unique mutations, and even if one of these gene mutations is protective against an inheritable disease that involves such a protection, the interaction of 5 or 20 gene mutations elsewhere in the DNA code may be involved, or something in the epigenome. There is a possibility, states Dr. Bateman, that this protection involves something in the environment as well. It is likely that we will find from such study that disease inheritance and protection against inherited disease is complex, and requires a complex holistic approach to prevention. While we still like to hear simplified stories which imply that soon the genetic code will provide easy cures or prevention of all disease, this scenario is not as simple as our scientists have been implying for half a century. First these disease genes were supposed to be located in just 23 trait chromosomes, and now we see that the whole genome may be involved. Next we find that even genes that have disease traits and mutations most often need genetic switches in other genes, that are often controlled by epigenes, viral DNA and endogenous retroviral RNA. Even disease genes and mutations may need environmental triggers, and this scenario now has become dauntingly complex. The best hope is to provide the healthiest environment and evolved homeostatic function so that the body has the best chance of dealing with the disease. Of course everything that we learn should be integrated into a protocol that affords the best chance of success, and this type of research on potential genetic protections may be invaluable in the future, but probably only in a more complex and holistic protocol.

A New York Times Science article from September 5, 2012, entitled Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From 'Junk', Play Crucial Role, outlines the findings of an enormous research project on human DNA and disease, called ENCODE, or Encyclopedia of DNA elements. In this long-term study, 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world collaborated to collect real data on the complete human genetic and epigenetic control of disease mechanisms. More than 80 percent of our genetic data coding has been considered "junk" in the past, much of it made up of viral DNA and RNA. This research showed how such DNA is instead very active in control of the other genetic expressions of regulating proteins. This new research provides a detailed map of the entire genetic controls in the body, and explodes the old theory that diseases are the result of a small part of the human cell genetic code, with either inherited or acquired mutations of these basic genes accounting for disease and cancer. The so-called junk DNA is very active with genetic "switches", which largely determine how the main genes express. These researchers have already linked these junk DNA switches to a wide array of human diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn's disease, celiac diseases, etc. The complex control of DNA expression accounts for increased likelihood that problems with normal homeostatic mechanisms will go awry, and diseases will occur. In other words, risk of disease or cancer is very complicated, and there is little set genetic determinism. A Stanford University researcher involved, Michael Snyder, was quoted: "Most of the changes that affect disease don't lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches." A vast array of health factors are involved, including the epigenome. This scenario presents a vastly complex problem for the creation of specific allopathic drugs, and genetic germline modifications, to alter this immense genetic landscape. Maintenance of homeostatic mechanisms is thus vitally important in the prevention and resolution of disease. A more complex treatment protocol is also needed. Integration of the complex array of herbal and nutrient chemicals, and the array of effects of acupuncture, achieves a more complex and holistic treatment plan. Depending on limited effects of specific allopathic medicines does not seem sensible.

Arturas Petronis, who heads the epigenetic lab at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, reports that "after 30 years of molecular genetic studies we can explain only about 2 to 3 percent of inherited predisposition to psychiatric disease." One of the most studied childhood diseases, autism, has still not presented any specific evidence of genes directly linked to autism or autism spectrum disorder by 2016, and the vast resources spent on finding the autism gene could have actually diverted attention from finding the more complex explanation of a combination of environmental and eipigenetic factors that apparently is involved in an alarming epidemic of autism in developing countries. A 2014 U.S. government survey found that up to 1 in 45 children below the age of 17 have now been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and there is still no explanation for these parents and their children.

In other words, disease inheritance is much more complex than we assumed, and there will be few simple biochemical corrections that will work to correct our diseases. The complexity of the epigenetic mechanisms that may alter even strongly predisposed disease inheritance suggests that, while genetic predisposition is valid, the patient may do much to alter such predispositions, and the approach should be more complex than just an allopathic single biochemical alteration. In other words, a holistic approach should be taken if one is to successfully alter the course that genetics and epigenetics is taking. The epigenome is largely determined by our choices in life, and is malleable. While these choices are very similar from one individual to another, an evolved sociological order to human life, including a common diet, lifestyle, environment, and even common emotional and spiritual expressions and beliefs, within a culture or civilization, the individual may also take conscious actions to alter these choices. This is the basis for holistic medicine. By changing the diet, consuming herbal chemicals and targeted nutrient chemicals, making cognitive and behavioral changes, and improving or changing one's environment, the epigenome may be affected, and even genetic propensity to disease altered. Research is even revealing the potential effects of acupuncture stimulation on the expression of the epigenome.

A November 11, 2008 article in the New York Times, Science Times, outlined the current state of research and findings with the enormous push for decoding our genes and discovering cures for many difficult diseases. Unfortunately, the expected discovery of key gene variants that may be altered to cure such diseases as diabetes and cancer has not materialized. A Times article on February 6, 2009, states that most genetic variants found to be associated with common diseases have turned out to account for just 1 percent or so of cases. The search for altered genes has instead found a large number of variants, not a specific genetically inheritable mutation, associated with specific disease. Mother Nature has not confined itself to human systems of classification, and surprisingly, this has surprised researchers. Natural selection seems to correct disease-causing variants before they get common. Our basic genetic code is not 'set in stone', but rather constantly mutating, and the array of potential disease-causing genetic mutations are many. The good news is that our organism has evolved a way to constantly correct these disease-causing genetic mutations. The efforts of man-made science pales in relation to this natural system.

The best approach to disease prevention and treatment is restoration of the complex homeostatic mechanisms evolved in our bodies, as well as the homeostasis evolved in our environment to promote healthy life and longevity. This approach is proven to even prevent disease in patients who have inherited a propensity toward specific diseases. The term homeostasis refers to the natural tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements both within and outside of the body, maintained by physiological processes. This holistic system is what keeps us healthy, and our genetic and epigenetic data is part of this coordination, constantly changing to meet the demands of our environment, and altered by innumerable environmental signals and controls, especially viral genetic data. The many billions of dollars spent on genetic research in medicine to allopathically alter this holistic system has produced little benefit. The response to failure has been to spend a great deal more money and energy to find this elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. On the other hand, the discouragement of a restorative and holistic Integrative and Complementary Medicine has only inhibited progress in utilizing medical and scientific knowledge to enhance our homeostatic systems to prevent even inheritable disease propensity.

One of the very few drugs that actually target a genetic cause of disease was introduced in 2010 and approved by the FDA in 2012. Ivacaftor, or Kalydeco, is a drug developed to treat cystic fibrosis, a disease related to inherited genetic mutations of the gene CFTR, involved in expressing proteins that regulate chloride ion transport across cell membranes. Patients with cystic fibrosis suffer increased lung infections and damage, and a shortened life span. This gene CFTR was identified in 1989, but decades of research was needed to identify the array of mutations that were involved in the disease process. One of the researchers in charge of development at the pharmaceutical manufacturer, Vertex, stated in a February 1, 2012 New York Times article: "There are all these different mutations and each of the mutations was causing it (the gene) to be broken in a different way." Initial attempts to treat the disease involved putting correct copies of the gene into the patient's lungs. This did not improve the condition. This drug will help patients with specific mutations, and other drugs are being developed to affect other common mutations. The cost of this drug is $294,000 per year, though, and will alleviate symptoms for a select subgroup of cystic fibrosis patients, but will likely not reverse years of accumulated lung damage. Such cost is prohibitive for many patients, and medicines like this will likely increase health costs in the form of insurance and taxpayer funded healthcare considerably in the future. To affect repair and regrowth of healthy lung tissues while the drug decreases symptoms, the patient and physician may turn to Integrative Complementary Medicine and adopt a holistic protocol to help clear diseased tissue and stimulate healthy regrowth to increase the effectiveness of this expensive therapy. This integration of Complementary Medicine could dramatically reduce the prolonged need and dosage of such drugs, reducing the overall financial burden, as well as improving the outcome. The difficulty and cost of such pharmaceutical treatments has prevented other such drugs to be developed and marketed, and considerations of restructuring our healthcare research and development to decrease costs, as well as integrating Complementary Medicine to improve the fiscal impact are important considerations in future healthcare.

Genetic research has now shifted its focus and reduced its expectations as enormous amounts of research have revealed that the oversimplified model of our genetics that we have believed in with religious zeal is indeed wrong. With this new understanding of genetics, enormous confabulation is occurring to minimize the extent of our mistakes, but in reality, biopharmaceutical research is making drastic changes in its direction. Researchers now are seeking to find rare genetic and epigenetic variants that might be used to better screen specific portions of the population to identify increased risk of health problems as biomarkers of the disease process. They also hope to uncover more specific data on disease mechanisms as they study these rare genetic variants that the human organism has not yet cleaned up with natural homeostatic processes. A June 6, 2010, article in the New York Times sums up the current research finding and disappointments: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/health/research/13genome.html. The problems faced in utilizing this now vast knowledge of the human genome are great. If the array of diseases we face are connected to individualized genetic variants that are relatively rare, each individual would have to have their complete genome mapped and studied. This is increasingly available to individuals, but still costs about $5-10,000, which would not include the actual computerized analysis of the genetic variants in relation to a number of genetic mechanisms that would need to be addressed for each individual. Currently, analysis of the genome in a large study by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in relation to women and cardiovascular disease, proved to have little or no value in predicting cardiovascular disease over 12 years in 19,000 women studied, though. While modern medicine has convinced the public that genetic research holds astounding promise to finally cure or prevent their diseases, this is not proving true. The complexity of genetic data is overwhelming the realm of human understanding.

A new and radically different view of our genetic data has occurred with the recent mapping of the human genome and the study of genetic evolution

Each human carries over 20,000 basic genes that carry the coding data for creation of complex proteins that both compose our cells and tissues, as well as regulate their functions. The vast majority of these basic genes are not directly coding these proteins, a process where a portion of one of the two strands of amino acid sequences (DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid) is "unzipped" and replicated as single-strand RNA (ribonucleic acid), which is able to utilize a portion of "noncoding" DNA to replicate a series of amino acids into a protein. This RNA is composed of a sequence of nucleic acids composed of just 4 amino acids, adenine, cytosine, guanine and uracil linked with ribose sugar and phosphate. The ribose sugar in RNA attracts an oxygen and hydrogen containing molecule, called a hydroxyl (-OH), that the DNA ribose does not have. The single-strand complex of the RNA also allows it to join with many other bits of RNA and fold into complex shapes, mainly controlled by the epigenetic histones, while the DNA is relegated to the form of the helix. The attraction of specific base nucleotides, or the 4 amino acids that make up the chain of data, to this folded genetic structure, appear to largely determine the folding and unfolding of the RNA, which then largely determines how the resulting complex proteins created will function as they interact with other cells in our body. For over a century, scientists have assumed that these human genes, found duplicated in almost every human cell on the planet, were unchanged for millions of years, as humans were formed. Studies in recent years show that both these genes and the functions of these genes do in fact change, or evolve. While the basic coding genes that comprise our genome perhaps only experience significant evolutionary changes a few times in a million years, what we call the "noncoding" genes, and the surrounding epigenes, are constantly mutating and evolving. Past assumptions about our genetic code and how it works was ridiculously oversimplified, and current strategies to affect this gene expression are still largely based on these past assumptions. 

The human genome has been mapped. This genome research has led to the possibility that we will find no specific cures within single genes. Our understanding of the very nature of our genetic material has changed with these findings, though, as research has expanded, leading to a large variety of ways that we may affect our genetic and epigenetic data to alter the course of a disease. We see from recent study that the tools of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, herbal/nutrient medicine, and even energetic medical treatments such as Qi Gong, work primarily by affecting this complex field of fluid genetic data in the form of the epigene. We also now know that DNA is not composed of genes, or segments of nucleic acids, that contain the blueprints for specific proteins. Instead, a single section of DNA that we have called a gene can make more than one protein to regulate our physiology, and is dependent on a complex surrounding epigenome to guide its function and expression. To fully utilize our new knowledge of genetics, we must now develop a holistic, or quantum mechanical view of genetics and disease inheritance, and this points to a future that combines biotech drugs with holistic medicine to achieve broader, systemic and coordinated effects in our bodies. To further this understanding, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, begun in 2008 at more than 40 labs. The findings of this epigenetic mapping will most assuredly point to a complex and variable array of factors and treatments that may alter the course of an individual disease, or prevent it. 

The concept of a gene may now incorporate not just the specific stretch of DNA that we have used to define the gene in the past, but also the exons, or RNA expression, from other genes that affect the genetic expression, as well as the epigenetic marks from surrounding molecules and chemicals that are not static, but continuously change with the environmental changes we experience. In fact, given the amazing rate of genetic mutation and correction in the organism, none of our genetics is particularly static. The gene is now a fluid abstract entity in science, similar in concept to some of the fluid abstract concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as Qi, Yin and Yang. These abstract concepts of our physiology, devised thousands of years ago by physicians that were devoted to a natural science called Taoism, perfectly express the ever changing, but homeostatically balanced nature of our genetic inheritance. Our notion of inherited disease and disorder also becomes more fluid and malleable with this change of knowledge. Already, most of us are aware that we may have inherited propensity to a disease, rather than certainty of the disease, and now this concept is expanded. In terms of our health, this means that there may be a number of things we can do to alter the risk of the genetic expression of disease. Complementary Medicine offers the chance to affect this aspect of our health in a varied and complex holistic manner.

Where has all of our efforts to map the human genome and discover the precise origins of inherited disease led to? Let us look at just one example. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), published a report in the March 31, 2008 issue of Nature Genetics that states that 16 genetic risk factors associated with diabetes have already been discovered, with more expected. In 2010, the results of a large multi-centered research project into genetic markers for Diabetes Type 2, involving over 100 research centers, were published in the January 17, 2010 issue of Nature Genetics. The consortium, titled Meta-Analysis of Glucose and Insulin-related Traits Consortium (MAGIC), found an additional 10 markers for biological traits associated with Diabetes Type 2. These researchers analyzed genetic data from more than 100,000 subjects, both patients and controls, but were surprised to find only one genetic association with insulin resistance, the hallmark of Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes Type 2, according to a co-author, Dr. Ines Barroso, of Cambridge. Another researcher interviewed, Professor Nick Wareham of the University of Cambridge Insitute of Metabolic Science, stated that diseases like Diabetes Type 2, or Metabolic Syndrome, have so many common traits (inherited or acquired features) that finding solid genetic markers, or connections, underlying the features of the disease is very difficult, and may take enormous analyses of genetic data. In other words, there is no promised single genetic cause for this disease that can lead to an effective allopathic cure. The number of genetic variants potentially associated with disease discovered in total with current research is phenomenal. It appears that new genetic variants are being created constantly, most of which are corrected with a variety of processes that lead some scientists to conclude that we may never fully understand our genetic mechanisms, even after mapping the human genome. The implications of this new understanding is that we must focus on restoring proper homeostatic function to the body, as a whole entity, to actually succeed with specific chemical manipulation to counteract disease mechanisms. The promise of biotech is there, but may not be particularly effective if the whole health of the patient is not addressed. There will always be so many variables affecting genetic expression that single bioengineered chemicals will need help, both in achieving proper effects, and in alleviating unwanted affects of altering or blocking genetic expression. This help will come in the form of integrated Complementary Medicine and the holistic medical approach.

By 2014, the Model Organism ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements, a project called modENCODE, has successfully cataloged all of the protein coding genes in a number of model species, such as the fruit fly, to find exactly how our human DNA works. What they discovered is a complexity so dense that simply mapping the complete human genome may not be enough to discover effective treatments though genetic modulation. The researchers now stress the importance of mapping the epigenome, or histone, histone markers, and transcription factors that determines when a stretch of DNA is folded and unable to express protein signals, when these bits of DNA are turned off and on, and the sequence of switches required to express particular signal proteins in different cells.

Scientists have discovered that this dizzying array of genetic and epigenetic controls, producing an infinite variation in signaling, is not even the end of this complex processing. In all of the model species subsets of genes tended to turn on and off in a similar pattern and rhythm, or frequency. This allowed different genetic switches to turn on the same stretches of DNA once they were unfolded by histones at different stages of development, or in reaction to changes in the function of the cell. The sequences of genetic transcription involved multiple switches from different bits of DNA that expressed in sequences that acted in a feed-forward loop whose rules changed during different stages of the development of the cell, and depended on the rhythm of these switches. Not only is this mechanism amazingly complex, but we may have to wait a while before we develop computer models with such complexity, much less until we fully map the vast array of genetic patterns in turning on and off genes, as well as the pattern of multiple triggers that leads to a choice of which of many proteins may be expressed by that DNA. The good thing is that there appears to be universal patterns in this process, the same throughout nature. What this means for the understanding of disease mechanisms is that we now have to discard the notion that a limited number of mutations in the basic trait-bearing 23 chromosomes create much of our disease. We now know that the other 97 percent of the genome is involved, as well as the epigenome, and that even if a gene is normal, or no apparent mutation is present, the activity of that gene may be abnormal, causing disease. Discovering genetic mutations in the basic trait-bearing 23 chromosomes, the focus of genetic research into disease for the last 70 years, will not bear fruit. Finding more ways to restore this genetic homeostasis presents us with an array of medical tools that may actually work. We need to proceed to a model of cure that both allopathically effects a quantum field of genetic mechanisms, as well as integration of a system that also helps restore normal functional homeostasis. All of this research points to discoveries and theories that were expressed by Daoist natural scientists thousands of years ago, regarding natural patterns that were universal.

A big question today is why do our scientists and doctors continue to repeat an oversimplified answer to our health problems and diseases, in that they are explained very simply as an inherited problem, when the question of inheritance is now proven to be very complex, and composed of many factors, some of which are related to our environment and choices we consciously make regarding diet and lifestyle, and some of which are related to the whole genetic environment affecting our genes. With all of our understanding and mapping of the human genome, we have uncovered more and more questions, and many of the past assumptions have been found to be wrong. Some basic aspects of our genome, such as its origin, are still a mystery. We do know now that as the functional needs of our organism evolve, genetic replication itself may be altered to evolve both changes in our basic genes, as well as new genes. For example, the hemoglobin metaloprotein, which evolved to use the abundant metallic iron molecule to strongly attract positively charged oxygen and carry it to cells throughout our body for electrical fuel, evolved from a protein that originally functioned to attract oxygen within our cells so that it would not harm the cell. Hemoglobin, and the genes that express this protein, appears to have evolved from an antioxidant. This genetic evolution is taking place at a pace much faster than we had assumed. Genetic mutation and repair appear to be essential to this evolution, creating de novo genes, or unique new genes, that may be triggered to perform a variety of functions, some beneficial, and some contributing to disease. So far, scientists have identified at least 40 of these de novo genes in the basic human genome, and most experts believe that a much larger number will soon be found.

In 2014, scientists from Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University Medical School, Cambridge University and the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New York, collaborated on two studies of de novo genetic changes that contribute to neurological and psychiatric disease, published in the Journal Nature.

These "de novo" genes are not inherited, but play a role in the causes of schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disability, according to Dr. Mick O'Donovan of Britain's Cardiff University, a lead researcher on one of the studies. Schizophrenia is thought to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, most of them not acknowledged or diagnosed due to the historical stigma attached. In one study, blood samples were analyzed from 623 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, and their parents, revealing the genetic changes contributing to their disease, yet absent in the parents genes. Dr. Shaun Purcell, of the Broad Institute at MIT, who worked on both studies, stated in a Reuter's News interview that "despite the considerable sample sizes, no individual gene could be unambiguously implicated in either study. It suggests that many genes underlie risk for schizophrenia and so any two patients are unlikely to share the same profile of risk genes." Dr. Purcell stated that these results were "sobering but also revealing". There is no better proof that our past assumptions of inheritable disease were very wrong, and that the whole genetic environment must be addressed to correct the genetic component of disease. Given that these de novo genes studied underlie the mechanisms of an array of neuropyschological disorders also demonstrates that we cannot and will not find the cure for most diseases by altering the expression of single genes. This research also shows that de novo genetic changes may be associated with not only an array of related diseases, but also an array of healthy adaptations, and allopathic pharmacological drugs that disrupt the pathways of these de novo genetic expression could have an array of negative consequences for the health of the patient. The genetic role of disease becomes more complex each year in the last decade, and treating the subject with too simplistic attitude is not only unscientific, but is not very helpful in truly dealing with disease.


Not only the Epigenome but the Mitochondrial Genome contributes to our basic Human Genome, and may determine our health. It is sometimes called our "Second Genome"

The mitochondria are tiny organs, or organelles, within each of our human cells. They evolved from a symbiotic relationship with our biota in early development. There are two basic types of cellular life forms on our planet, eukaryotes, such as humans, animals, plants and even fungi, who are composed of cells with a nucleus, which reproduce by the nucleus dividing via mitosis into two cells with identical genes, or by meiosis, a type of sexual reproduction, where one half of each gene is contributed by two nuclei to form a third, an offspring. The second type of cellular life, prokaryotes, are composed of a different type of cell, and there are two types of prokaryotes, bacteria and archeae (single cell microorganisms with no cell nucleus or membrane that are similar to bacteria). Bacteria have no nucleus and their membrane or membranes do not encapsulate cell organelles. The earliest forms of life on our planet were prokaryotes, and even today these life forms are the dominant type, despite their minute size. Even the human is composed mainly of prokaryotes, with bacterial cells outnumbering human cells by at least 40 to 1. These prokayotic cells in our body aren't foreigners, and in fact perform much of the work that keeps us alive, and they it do intelligently, much like the part of our population that we like to call illegal aliens. While we still resist the notion that we are largely a colony of bacteria, this is the truth, and early in our development as eukaryotes, one type of bacteria decided to help us evolve by becoming part or our cells, the mitochondria, allowing the larger life forms, eukaryotes, to utilize oxygen to create the enormous energy it needed. These mitochondria actually supply most of our energy, and no, they aren't just another evolved little organ in our cell, but a distinct being that has its own genetic code, termed a mtDNA.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was only discovered in the 1960s by Margit M. K. Nass and Sylvan Nass, after the invention of the electron microscope. Ellen Haslbrunner, Hans Tuppy and Gottfried Schatz confirmed this separate genome by biochemical assay. In the human, the mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother, but other animal and plant species are known to allow inheritance via the father in sexual reproduction. In each human cell, 100 to 10,000 copies of the mitochondrial DNA exist, and each DNA is composed of 15,000 to 17,000 base pairs of nucleic acid. These mitochondrial DNA are particularly sensitive to mutation from oxidative stress, and aging, and disease trait potentials may be passed from a mother to her offspring. The 37 main genes in each mitochondria, in each cell, pass directly from the mother to the son or daughter, and are found in all their cells, including the sperm and ova. If there are mutations of these mtDNA, they could pass from the mother to the child, and so, fertility scientists have been adding the healthy mtDNA from a third party, another woman, to the fertilized eggs in in-vitro fertilization, when a potential for an inherited mitochondrial disease is present. There is no actual FDA approval for this use of the third person's mtDNA, though, and as scientists develop even more advanced ways to use a third person's mtDNA, this time attached to the human DNA, the potential for using this method to not only potentially prevent inherited disease, but to provide designer traits occurs. Most people are alarmed at the potential to sell traits to expectant parents to control how their child turns out, especially as this alters the life of the child without their permission, as if they were owned by the parents. Many others believe strongly that this is contrary to the will of God, or Nature. A fierce debate is starting on this subject.

What we have learned from the study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), though, is that in each cell there are hundreds of thousands of mtDNA, and that this mtDNA distributes to the cells of the developing egg and fetus by replication, with an indeterminate amount of them possessing disease determining mutations. Where these mtDNA end up in the body, in a multitude of types of specialized human cells, also determines if these mutations may eventually cause or contribute to a disease. The term 'mitochondrial disease' is now finally being recognized, but the vast array of diseases that can be linked to mitochondrial mutations and dysfunctions do not allow us to easily diagnose and determine if an individual patient is within the "box" of mitochondrial diagnoses, or "outside the box". Hopefully, this will not prevent patients from taking the necessary proactive steps early in their disease to correct potential mitochondrial ill health.

The question of whether mitochondrial disease will be inherited by the offspring of patients with mitochondrial disease is also unclear, given the dizzying array of possibilities as our cells develop from a single human cell. In other words, scientists have found that their notion of inheritable disease traits is pretty much left to chance in many circumstances, with no way to concretely determine whether an mtDNA disease will be passed to the child. This also elucidates the subject of human DNA inheritable traits, in that with so many factors determining the disease expression in the genes, from the epigenome and what was considered the "junk DNA" until quite recently, and now de novo genes newly created by subsets of humans but not inherited, there may be no actual model of linear disease inheritance, and hence a century of research to discover how to stop disease by altering the genes may never produce the results we had anticipated. Of course, a few diseases are associated strongly with specific human genes that are less controlled by the rest of the genetic makeup, but the vast majority of diseases are not. As research progresses, we are finding that a vast number of genetic mutations in both the human and mitochondrial genetic code may be potentially related to disease. Of course, we could then market increasing use of genetic modification with the justification of preventing potential disease, or we could take the more logical course of stating that since so many genetic abnormalities could potentially cause or contribute to disease that we should not use this type of medical approach. The business side of medicine will of course promote more and more expensive use of potentially harmful genetic science to prevent disease, while the intelligent patient population will question this overly expensive approach as incurring too much risk for too little benefit at too high of a cost.

Although we now know that a considerable number of individuals in a population have a mitochondrial mutation that may contribute to a wide variety of diseases, even hypertension and infertility, we still do not have any way of determining whether a specific individual will pass on a mitochondrial genetic trait that will cause or contribute to a disease. Nevertheless, a number of fertility clinics in the United States now test the mitochondrial DNA, and if there is this potential, advise the patient to allow insertion of a third party mitochondrial DNA into the eggs that are extracted for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Of course, the situation is confusing, and the mother often does not want to feel that she allowed a disease to be inherited unnecessarily, and so consents to this procedure. Application for human clinical trials to determine efficacy and safety of inserting both the mitochondrial DNA and at least a part of a third party human DNA, affecting stem cells, has occurred. Whether the patient population speaks out and voices an opinion concerning this type of procedure may determine the future of the human race.

To justify the use of genetic engineering to prevent disease by using the mtDNA, and potentially a good part of the human DNA, from a third party, in artificial reproductive technology, scientists are now stating that since the epigenome and environment alter the genes, then there is no difference in using human technology to alter the genes as well, right? Many scientists are alarmed at this cavalier attitude, which may result in any number of unforeseen problems in the future, and in fact does open the door to a commercialization of human designer traits that are not naturally occurring, and are not part of the free will of the person. Also, if human genetic modification occurs, the potential that something in the human cell function and expression will occur that is itself a disease, or unwanted, or negative to the health and development, will occur. Most of the human race does still believe that humans should evolve naturally, not be scientifically altered and cloned. This is believed to be what determines what and who we are, natural selection. Natural selection has worked pretty well up to this point. The subject of inheritable disease has become even more complicated since the discovery of the separate mitochondrial DNA.


Understanding the Role of Genes, DNA, RNA and the Epigenome in our Health, and the ability of Acupuncture and Herbal Nutrient Medicine to Utilize these Mechanisms to Restore Healthy Homeostasis

Mapping the human genome has accomplished a recognition of only about one percent of the entire DNA structure of our genetic code, and the project to map the other 99 percent, ENCODE, has discovered that even this one percent of protein-encoding genes that we consider our basic genetic code averages 5.7 different protein transcripts per bit of DNA, and incorporates RNA exons, or genetic transcripts, from distant locations on the genome, even from different chromosomes. In other words, even our basic genes multitask, and to affect a single genetic expression of regulating proteins, we would have to also account for an array of contributing genetic expressions on other parts of our basic chromosome. We can no longer think of genes as being single stretches of DNA at one physical location, and the implication of this in terms of allopathic correction of human disease is enormous. The path of our biotech direction has been altered in medical science.

Up to this point in time, a gene was considered an almost absolute determinant of inheritable traits, which worked by carrying the segment of bases, or building blocks, that coded specific proteins which regulated functions in all of our cells. Two camps, the "Nature versus Nurture" parties, similar to our political parties, have achieved gridlock rather than progress. The process of disease determination was thought to be carried out by the DNA regulation of single strands of the genetic code, called RNA, which are a small segment of the sequential base code. The basic human genome contains more than 3 billion of these sequential bases, and a very small part of these DNA sequences make up exons, which are the RNA sequences that the chromosome uses to make a specific protein. Although these protein expressing RNA strands make up less than 2% of our RNA, we assumed that the rest was non-expressing DNA. We now know that much of this DNA, commonly called junk DNA, actually expresses proteins and carries out a variety of regulatory mechanisms beside protein regulation, with the assistance of the molecules surrounding the gene, or the eipgenome.

The molecules that make up the sequences that define DNA are called base pairs. A base pair, on opposite strands of DNA, is made of nucleotides, which are simple carbon rings with oxygen, nitrogen and a phosphate group attached. Five simple variations form the most common purine and pyrimidine nucleotides. Human chromosomes are single, very long DNA strands, found in each of our cells, and we have identified 23 pairs, or 46 chromosomes, 2 of which are identified with our sexual classification. It was assumed that these chromosomes were the complete determinants of our hereditary traits. Abnormalities of the chromosome were strongly linked to certain inherited conditions, such as Down's Syndrome, and so it was assumed that chromosome mutations were responsible for a large number of diseases, especially those with apparently inherited frequency. We now know that the subject of inherited disease traits is a much more complicated subject.

How complex is the task of curing disease by chemicals that block genetic expression, or even stem cell replacement? It was thought that a single chromosome may contain over 4000 genes, and nearly a quarter of a million sequenced bases. It seems that we may have underestimated even this complexity. In 2003, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that the Y chromosome harbors up to 3 times the number of genes than previously attributed. The 3 million base pair strands were found to be palindromes, reading the same backward as forward. This may be a unique way for this easily mutating chromosome to constantly repair itself. The cell may utilize the palindromic long strands to constantly restore the chromosome to a normal sequence, and thus repair the DNA, which is constantly mutating. This complexity of constant DNA chromosome mutations and repair poses a significant problem in the discovery of specific chemical treatments for genetic-based medicine, as well as the use of stem cell material. Diseases related to dysfunction of this complex mutation and repair mechanism may be better addressed by including therapies aimed at restoring proper biochemical function, especially in immune enhancement, but also in relation to other biochemical processes that are affected by nutrient chemicals and acupuncture stimulation. Curing, preventing or alleviating disease mechanisms related to rare genetic variants might be best accomplished by encouraging natural homeostatic mechanisms that our bodies have developed over millions of years of evolution. This is where Complementary Medicine and TCM play a significant role.

Epigenetics is a word that describes the chemical physiology surrounding our genes that alters the genetic mechanism, as well as the histones that our basic human DNA wrap around. Recent studies show that both industrial and environmental chemicals, as well as common nutrient changes, may alter the epigenetic patterns that affect inheritable disorders. The genes themselves do not need to be mutated to affect the inheritance of disease risk and health problems.

Our DNA is surrounded by many proteins and other molecules that modulate genetic expression, such as carbon and hydrogen methyl groups that cap our DNA, and protein histones that determine the ability to express. Viral DNA and RNA make up a large part of our genetic and epigenetic code, and viral-silencing RNA (viRNA) are used to affect messenger RNA (mRNA) in modulating our genetic expressions. Viruses are not living organisms, but simply bits of genetic data encapsulated in a way that may insert into living organisms cellular data, or DNA. While a small portion of this ubiquitous viral DNA and RNA is pathogenic, the vast majority is important in creating a quantum set of adaptive changes to improve our function and survivability. In embryonic development, this epigenome appears to be stripped away and a fresh set of epigenomic traits are developed in the same pattern as the parents. If the embryo is exposed to particular toxins or nutritional deficiencies, it may develop a problem with the new epigenome. If the parents alter their epigenome with some exposure to toxin, this new epigenomic trait may be passed on for a few generations. This was proven in a study by Matthew Amvway at Washington State University that showed that epigenetic traits in laboratory animals could be induced by industrial chemical exposure and carry on through 3 generations. As the human organism grows and adapts to the environment, constant epigenomic changes take place to improve function and survivability, and some of these epigenetic changes may cause problems. In 2013, scientists in Taiwan studied 3,294 traditional Chinese herbal medicines at the National Central University, and found that 1,170 of these herbal medicines interact with enzymes that alter the histone in the epigenome. They found that 99 percent of commonly used traditional Chinese herbal medicines affect the human epigenome, especially the histone. This complexity of the quantum field of epigenetic and genetic modifications used in nature to maintain our health is astounding, and our modern science has only recently even discovered it.

Nutrigenomics describes changes that dietary patterns have made on the epigenome while not directly affecting the gene itself. A USDA-ARS 2008 study by C J Li, T H Elsasser and R W Li of the Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory showed that ruminant species have changed their nutrient intake and evolved greater metabolism of short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, that have significantly altered the gene expressions that regulate cell growth, immune respose and signal transduction. Further study is sure to illuminate more detailed changes in nutrient intake that could affect our health both negatively and positively.

What is revealed in this type of study is that herbal chemicals and nutrient supplements do play a potential role in epigenetic treatment protocol. A published study by the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Services), entitled Biological Response Indicators of Environmental Stress (RFA 06-013) stated: "Another example relates to the assessment of gene-specific and global epigenetic changes influence by dietary exposures. A recent study showed that supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B12, choline, and betaine altered gene phenotype in agouti(A(vy)) mice through increased DNA methylation at the A(vy) locus. Beginning with animal studies, the effects of dietary supplementation with folic acid and other B vitamins could be assessed with respect to gene-specific epigenetic changes (e.g. alterations in imprinted genes, including IGF2 and CDKINIC), global methylation changes, or histone modification changes." The potential for phytochemical and nutriceutical effects on epigenetic disease processes to accompany specific pharmaceutical approaches is very real and close at hand. While the pharmaceutical industry continues to fight herbal and nutrient medicines, which they cannot patent, our scientific study and public demand will soon force this industry to integrate herbal/nutrient medicine to enhance the effects of man-made, or synthesized, medicines.

Not only herbal and nutrient medicines, but acupuncture and electroacupuncture stimulation itself is now proven to work largely, but not completely, through modulatory effects on gene expressions, precursors to genetic expression, alteration of the expression and balance of receptors, and the epigenetic methylation. More and more studies are using techniques of genetic mapping and databases of genetic types and families, epigenetic coding, and genetic ontology to track the many effects of acupuncture and electroacupuncture stimulation, and finding that these modulating effects are thus able to help patients sustain positive effects to reduce symptoms, and affect positive restorative change, in a sense reeducating the body to what it is genetically programmed to do. Some of these studies are cited below in Additional Information. The good thing with approach to genetics is that it shows how TCM provided a comprehensive package to restore genetic homeostasis and comes with no potential for adverse effects. Comparing this to the allopathic approach, which intrinsically produces an array of alterations in normal genetic expression that results in both wanted and many unwanted effects, which we increasingly accept as tolerable side effects, this scientific study is demonstrating why we need to try conservative approaches in healthcare first.

Naysayers to this research that has identified the effects of acupuncture, herbal and nutrient medicine on the genetic and epigenetic pathways of modulation and regulation of homeostatic mechanisms, such as David Gorski, a cancer surgeon and professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, who maintains the medical blog and website Respectful Insolence and Science-Based Medicine, are having a difficult time maintaining the propaganda against so-called "Alternative" medicine. Dr. Gorski jokes that this research revealing the specific biological mechanisms for acupuncture stimulation to affect the epigenomic modulation as "magic" and refers to such ridiculous notions describing this research as supporting the belief that mere positive thoughts are what is used in so-called "Alternative" medicine to cure patients via the epigenome. This is so ridiculous as to question his sanity. He goes on to state that these "alternative" quacks don't really understand what epigenetics are, and equates these people with the deniers of evolutionary theory, and states that he knows that all epigenetic traits only carry 2 generations, so treatment that affects the epigenetic signals and modifications of the human system aren't going to be effective. A careful reading of such insistent naysayers to the abundant research at University Medical Schools and Institutions around the world reveal a more and more hopeless task of denying Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM), and insistence on propaganda that it is only practiced by nuts that want to deny standard care and trick patients into an alternative. The opposite is actually true, as professional CIM physicians, such as Licensed Acupuncturists and herbalists, and Naturopathic Doctors, present strong evidence-based medical science that is well studied and proven, and intended to be integrated into the respected realm of standard medicine to provide a safer and less harmful array of adjunct therapies to improve the overall treatment success, as well as provide a true preventive medicine. Such jokers as Dr. Gorski should perhaps stick to their specialty, as he is no expert in genomics or Complementary and Integrative Medicine. That such websites and blogs by medical doctors persist at this time begs the question of their motivations, perhaps monetary. One cannot dismiss sound objective scientific research forever with such ridiculous assertions. The question of 'science-based medicine' is eventually thrown back in their face, as they are the ones denying modern scientific fact, and one wonders whether their beliefs are really just another misguided religiosity.


Implications of side effects from new pharmaceutical manipulation of genetic expression, and the potential to alleviate side effects with Complementary Medicine

RNA interference, or RNAi, is a relatively new protocol for blocking disease mechanisms by downregulating genetic expression. Bioengineers believe that all of our genes can be downregulated as regards protein expression by RNAi, and newer drugs will be able to decrease specific protein formation to alter disease metabolism. Unfortunately, the full effect of these drugs won't be fully understood for some time. Blocking RNA expression at one point on our huge genome will probably not be accomplished without altering either protein expression at another point, or altering the chain of events associated with that protein expression in the complicated feedback mechanisms of our epigenome. As discovered, a single gene may express not just one, but a number of proteins, and each gene may be effected by other genes as well as the epigenome. Side effects may be a significant drawback to such therapy. In cases where the beneficial outcome outweighs the risk of side effects, Complementary Medicine could provide the means to decrease risk of side effects so that the patient is more comfortable with the treatment.

Already, we are discovering that messenger RNA are just a part of the complex set of epigenetic mechanisms that keep us healthy, and are constantly adapting and changing. It was shown in 2013, that 99 percent of commonly used herbal medicines in TCM work by affecting the epigenome, but in a way that has naturally evolved over long periods of time to be symbiotic with other environmental factors. Once again, an allopathic approach to a complex quantum system in our bodies presents enormous challenges and comes with alarming adverse effects. Utilizing this allopathic approach when necessary, but modifying it by integrating Complementary Medicine seems a sensible approach.

"The key to a comprehensive health care protocol for the future involves greater utilization of Complementary Medicine to decrease risk, alleviate side effects, and enhance effectiveness of new drug protocols."

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history of addressing the health of the genetic and epigenetic regulation of the body. The word for this in TCM is Jing, which refers to the fundamental substance which maintains the functioning of the body. A variety of treatment strategies, both in acupuncture, and in herbal medicine, are used to strengthen this essential substance and function. TCM has always viewed the genetic makeup as a complex system that is holistically functional and constantly in flux, transforming and correcting itself continuously. In this way, the ancient physicians of China anticipated what modern scientists are now discovering, the quantum mechanics of our essential biological being.

While research into the effects of acupuncture, herbal and nutrient medicine on genetic and epigenetic expression and regulation is still in its infancy, lacking funding, there are promising studies at present. For instance, research at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (USC), Keck School of Medicine, showed in 2012 that a classic herbal formula in Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yang Gan Wan, contains 2 key herbal chemicals, rosmarinic acid and baicalin that are shown to affect the epigenome to achieve the goal of downregulating cell receptors (PPAR-gamma) and reducing expression of MeCP2 to treat liver fibrosis (see study link below). Such studies begin to objectively illuminate the mechanisms by which herbal chemicals achieve their therapeutic goals. While these effects may not be as dramatic as pharmacological chemicals, the overall benefits from a more comprehensive therapeutic protocol, utilizing an array of herbal chemicals, along with nutrient medicine and acupuncture, may be dramatic, and may be integrated with standard pharmacological therapy to enhance the ultimate outcome.

Numerous studies now prove that gene expression is integral to many of the effects of acupuncture stimulation. For instance, in 2013, researchers at Kyung Hee University, in Seoul, South Korea, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Center for Traditional Mecicine, found that acupuncture stimulation at 2 points, GB34 and LV3, commonlyl used in therapy, inhibit the pathological reduction of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase in dopaminergic neurons associated with Parkinson's disease. These researchers found in animal studies that 18 genes in the thalamus cells, or regulating center of the brain, that are found to be downregulated in the disease, were upregulated by the acupuncture stimulation, but not be stimulation at non-acupuncture points. The research identified 8 annotated genes that are affected by MPTP-induced parkinsonism in laboratory animals that were modulated by the acupuncture treatment, with 3 genes down-regulated, and 5 genes upregulated, exerting beneficial homeostatic effects to counter the chemical effects of induced parkinsonism in the regulatory center of the brain associated with the disease (see study link below). While such study is complex, mainly due to the complexity of the homeostatic effects of acupuncture, the results are promising, and more and more medical research centers are conducting such study.

Dangers of Altering the Genetic Code to Prevent Disease and Misuse of New Techniques to Determine Human Traits

In 2015, a group of leading biologists, including one of the inventors of a new genome-editing technique known as Crispr-Cas9, Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna of the University of California at Berkeley, called for a world moratorium on use of new technology that now easily alters the human genome, called germline genetic modifications. Such technology, where the innate immune system is co-opted with a guide sequence that will destroy a matching DNA sequence to that it can be replaced, has the ability to easily rewrite the germline DNA. The implications worry even the inventors of this technology, though, who state that we are simply not smart enough yet to determine the future implications for humanity. This pragmatic as well as ethical argument was made with recombinant DNA technology in 1975, where scientists called for a worldwide refraining of using this technique on the human genome. While many scientists believe in a moral imperative to improve the world with genetic modification, Dr. Doudna and her colleagues stress the need for a complete moratorium on any clinical application of this human genetic modification until we are sure of the implications, which is not expected for many decades. A 2015 article in the journal Nature also called for a complete moratorium on use of another germline gene altering technique, the zinc finger technique, by its inventors, Dr. Edward Lamphier and colleagues, stating that any clinical use would be "dangerous and ethically unacceptable". Many believe that these new technologies will be used in countries without strict controls, though, and that public discussion and agreement on the ethics and implications of synthetically altering the human genome are needed to truly achieve a moratorium at present.

In 2015, Chinese researchers publicly revealed that they had already used the gene editing Crispr-Cas9 technology to alter the human genome in defective human embryos to see if this could possibly be used to alter all the genetic code in every cell of the human body to correct genetic traits related to disease. As expected, this technique produced dangerous consequences, with all 85 of the edited embryos either dying from the process or acquiring genetic mosaics and DNA mutations from the process. In fact, using this gene editing technique resulted in all but 4 of the 85 embryos dying, giving pause to any would-be parent using ART (artificial reproductive technology) and IVF to alter the suspected genetic code to prevent disease or alter the appearance of ability of their child in the future. In an April 24, 2015 New York Times article entitled Chinese Scientists Edit Genes of Human Embryos, Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Harvard University, stated: "Their study should give pause to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes during I.V.F. This is an unsafe procedure and should not be practiced at this time". David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate molecular biologist stated: "It shows how immature the science is. We have learned a lot from their attempts, mainly about what can go wrong". Ethical questions arose as well, such as the fact that even in the few known diseases where a single allele, or trait from one parent, could be inherited and result in all children with this single allele acquiring an inheritable disease, such as Huntington's Chorea, only about half of the parent's embryos will end up with the genetic trait, and genetic editing would entail genetic altering of normal children in a way that would pass on these alterations to all future children in this genetic family line. Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, a biology professor at M.I.T. stated: "It is unacceptable to mutate normal embryos. For me that means there is no application (of gene editing to prevent disease)". Not only is the efficacy of this science being debated by the world's experts, but the actual ethics and logical sense of the process, as the risks involve unknown permanent genetic alterations in humans, as well as the adverse side effects of the process. It is also expected, though, that medical clinics around the world will still try to convince parents that such genetic editing should be performed, and make a lot of profit from the technique. 

The genetic code is being altered in many ways now that we are able to successfully edit it. In 2015, the first fast-track human trial of a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T) for refractive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a very deadly type of blood cell cancer, was hailed as a miracle, as 24 of the 27 patients enrolled appeared to go into immediate remission, and 6 patients remained disease free at one year. The company, Juno Therapeutics, removed the patient's T-cells and and genetically modified them with viral DNA to express a chimeric (altered from the germline human form) receptor for a particular antigen associated with a cancer, C19. Unfortunately, in 2016, 3 of these patients died of cerebral edema, or swelling in the brain, from this JCAR015, and the clinical trials were stopped. Scientists had universally hailed the CAR-T as the final miracle cure to cancers that we have long sought, and although a number of serious adverse 'side' effects had occurred previously, including CNS dysfunction and seizures, these scientists expressed surprise and astonishment that patients had died of cerebral edema, and could not explain how this was possible. A lack of total understanding of how altered genetic codes in immune cells could cause such reactions should be warning, a red flag, but there appears to be little doubt that we will quickly market a number of such gene therapies in the near future, and already television and internet advertising are making it appear that these therapies will be the miraculous cure to cancer and only happy endings. We shall see, and hopefully we will be cautious when confronting the complexities of the human genetic code and the many ways that it is affected.


The role of viral infection in altering and evolving our genetic makeup, and the implications for healthcare protocol

One of the most amazing books ever published is titled Microcosmos, Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution, by Dorian Sagan and Lynn Margulis. This book clearly outlines the known mechanisms of genetic evolution, including the role of viruses and plasmids, which in fact are just bits of RNA and DNA that are encapsulated. Current genetic research has discovered a massive amount of viral DNA still incorporated into our genetic structure from millions of years of infection by different viruses, which comprises the majority of the genetic data in the human chromosome. This viral DNA and RNA has become a quantitatively dominant part of our genome, and even old viral DNA may still copy itself and this copy may move to another part of our genome, where it may disrupt protein expression, or even create proteins, some of which are known and proven to have beneficial effects. These viruses are actually a key component to our survival, creating genetic innovation that our bodies can use to counter evolving threats to our biological survival. The idea of a holistic system called Nature with such an intelligent design should amaze and delight us, but humans, in their intellectual frailty, are still fearful of what they cannot yet understand. Hopefully, this will soon change.

The most amazing thing that we have discovered about viruses is that these nonliving bits of DNA and RNA themselves are in a constant state of evolution and change. They evolve differently than living organisms, though. It is found that viruses evolve not through generations of inherited changes, but horizontally in time, with types of viral material in our world apparently changing simultaneously. This accounts for the simultaneous outbreaks of certain viral endemics around the world, such as the 1918 avian flu, which perhaps killed over 20 million people and ended World War I. This outbreak occurred in the same week in many locations over the entire globe, and our science still has no explanation of how this is possible, continuing to insist that it must have been spread that quickly over the entire planet by migrating birds, which is no sound or logical explanation.

Protection against some of the most dangerous viruses could affect the risk of disease occurrence and the potential passing of epigenetic inheritance to our offspring. The safest method of countering the ill effects of viral illness is to help the body in its complex response to viruses. This is how Complementary and Integrative Medicine works, by using the body's own complex system to sort out viral data and protect itself from unwanted adverse effects of this pangenomic system. Acupuncture and herbal medicine seeks to increase the efficiency of the immune system in its proper and evolved role in insuring that the viruses we encounter do not cause more damage than our bodies want, but still allow the beneficial effects of a broader evolutionary data system. Many diseases, including most autoimmune disorders, are thought to be caused by, or associated with, the unwanted incorporation of viruses into our genetic structure and subsequent expression. This is a very complex process, and allopathic medicine may never offer a workable response to this disease mechanism because of its inherent specificity. Holistic medicine offers a number of means of improving the health of the immune system and providing antiviral chemicals that have evolved within plants, coupled by a means of stimulating endogenous modulation by needle stimulation.


Information Resources / Additional Information

  1. A 2011 study at the Columbia University Medical Center, in New York, New York, U.S.A. found that much of our inherited traits come not from our basic genetic code, or DNA, but from the epigenetic code of small viral-silencing agents called viRNAs, with RNA interference (RNAi) used to modify genetic expressions and silence mRNA (messenger RNA) in our main genetic code. The role of viruses, which are not living organisms, but just bits of encoded data in the form of DNA or RNA, is complex and symbiotic with the healthy function of the human organism, and only sometimes pathological: http://phys.org/news/2011-12-traits-inherited-small-rnas.html
  2. A 2012 study of the Human Endogenous Retrovirus (HERV) and specifically the K-113 type of HERV in relation to autoimmune disease, by experts at the Pomeranian Medical University and the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center, in Poland, shows that while this particular HERV is found to be polymorphically expressed more in patients with common autoimmune disorders, that no direct disease relationship has been found. This study shows that 31 families of HERV have been found in the mapping of the human genome, with more than 98,000 of these retroviruses created by the human organism found, dating to 30 million years ago in human evolution. Obviously, the relationship between the whole world and the human genetic data needs to be reassessed, and the study of viral DNA and RNA may elucidate this holistic field that we want to ignore: http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/50/7/1310.full
  3. A definition of the epigenome and epigenetic proceses, but the U.S. National Institute of Health: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/epigenome
  4. A simplified explanation of our epigenome with video illustration is provided by the University of Utah, U.S.A., showing how our DNA genetic code is wrapped around histones that are affected by a host of molecules, and this system constantly adapts to necessary changes to improve our function and survival: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/intro/
  5. Research in 2013, in Taiwan, found that 99 percent of approved herbal medicines act partially by altering our epigenome: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/herbal-medicine-alters-genes-cell-mitosis-and-epigenome
  6. One example of the research exploring the effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or Chinese herbal chemistry, on the epigenome, is shown here: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/816714/
  7. By 2014, research in China regarding the many mechanisms by which acupuncture stimulation works to restore health found that some of the chief mechanisms seen in response to acupuncture stimulation involve epigenetic regulation, such as histone modification, methylation of DNA, remodeling of the chromatin, regulation of micro-RNA expression, and mediation of cellular apoptosis, or genetically programmed cell death: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=acupuncture+epigenetics
  8. Autism, a growing problem in the United States, with an estimated 1 in 88 children born with, or acquiring, an autism-spectrum disease now, has been considered the most heritable of all neurodevelopmental disorders, but studies by leading experts in the field of genetics, from the University of California San Francisco, Stanford University, UC Davis, Kaiser, the Genetic Research Exchange, and California Department of Public Health, now confirms that environmental factors overshadow the genetic component: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2011/07/10153/study-debunks-autism-primarily-genetic-disorder
  9. Research such as this 2015 multicenter study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of California San Francisco reveals how past research is designed to show a strong genetic cause for disease, and often is wrong. Here, a past finding that a genetic allele that produces the fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO) as the link between obesity and depression is found to be false. Such research often implies that a genetic fate is programmed for patients, and leads to complex pharmaceuticals that may not be the right treatment:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25656382
  10. 2 large multicentered research studies of "de novo" genes were published in 2014 in the Journal Nature, involving experts at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University Medical School, Cambridge University, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. This research reveals that evolving genes not inherited from the parents are key to the related neuropsychological diseases schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disabilities such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. This study clearly shows that our past notions of inheritable disease mechanisms were far off track, and implies that we must focus on the genetic environment within the body, rather than allopathic inhibitions of specific pathways of genetic expression. Integrating holistic medicine is essential: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/22/schizophrenia-gene-mutations-de-novo-brain-disorders-autism_n_4645777.html
  11. A large study of genetic markers for 24 diseases was conducted in a joint study led by Johns Hopkins University, and published in Science Translational Magazine in 2012. This study showed that when the genetic code of identical twins in Europe was analyzed, that the supposed genetic markers of disease did not predict risk, and that the identical twin of a person with a disease had about the same risk as the general population: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/04/a-reality-check-for-personal-gen.html
  12. A 2012 study of the effects of a Chinese herbal formula traditionally used to treat liver fibrosis, Yang Gan Wan, by the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), U.S.A., found that 2 of the active herbal chemicals in the formula, rosmarinic acid and baicalin, work by epigenetic regulation that affects the cell receptors for PPAR-gamma, inhibiting activation of liver stellate cells and progression of fibrosis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=epigenetic+regulation+herbal
  13. A 2013 study at Kyung Hee University, in Seoul, South Korea, in collaboration with the WHO (World Health Organization), demonstrated the amazing effects on genetic expression to counter neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease, with stimulation at 2 points, GB34 and LV3 modulating 8 genetic loci to counter the effects of MPTP-induced parkinsonism in laboratory animals: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235115
  14. A 2004 article by Frank P. Ryan of Sheffield University in the United Kingdom, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) and expert in the Southwest Primary Care Trust of Sheffield University, reveals how endogenous retroviruses and the genetic fragments derived from these reverse RNA strands actually make up about 50 percent of our genetic code. While the most famous of these retroviruses are HIV and Herpes, are pathogenic, the vast majority of human endogenous retroviruses are symbiotic and helpful, and are an important link to the genetic data of our world, interacting with exogenous viral DNA and RNA to communicate and evolve our human organism. We now know that this endogenous human retroviral DNA and RNA, and the separate DNA and RNA of our mitochondria, may evolve by both subtraction and addition. In devising treatment plans that involve this human endogenous retroviral RNA we need to consider plans to improve the homeostatic mechanisms of natural control, not just kill or switch off all of our endogenous retroviral genetic data: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1079666/
  15. A 2010 study of Merkel cells in the human skin and membranes, by Dr. MK Irmak of the Gulhane Military Medical Academy, in Ankara, Turkey, demonstrates how study of these melanin-producing skin cells reveals that they are in fact types of sensory nerve cells as well, reacting to the magnetosphere and changing electromagnetic field within and around our bodies. Such study reveals one way that energetic medicine, such as Qi Gong, as well as acupuncture stimulation, may interact with our nervous system, effecting change. Epigenetic changes may take place partly via the signals from Merkel cells, contributing to the fluid nature of our genetic code, and its amazing connection to the data of our whole world: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20189724
  16. A number of studies now demonstrate how acupuncture stimulation works partially though mechanisms of restoring the homeostatic mechanisms programmed into our genetic code, and the epigenetic functions of gene expression regulation. This 2012 study at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Shanghai, China, shows that stimulation at just 3 common acupuncture points near the upper spine affected 144 genetic tags comprising 6 types of genes, with enriched expressions in 10 categories of genes. The study, using the gene mapping analyses of SAGE, DAVID and GO (gene ontology) databases, showed that in laboratory animals that genetic regulation of biosynthesis, metabolism and transportation were modulated with acupuncture stimulation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22580820
  17. In 2013, researchers at Huazhong Agriciultural University, in Wuhan, China, showed that pain reduction with electroacupuncture stimulation that increases opioid neurotransmitters such as dynorphin, enkaphlin etc. occur because of modulation of dynamic genetic expressions of precursors, these opioid biochemicals, and their receptors, creating a lasting effect. The measured effects from a single treatment lasted at least 12 hours in study animals, but the potential for modulating the pain reactions to help adaptation to pain are evident, with potential to correct syndromes of hyperalgesia, allodynia and neuropathic pain, as well as pain seen in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes, by helping to restore natural mechanisms of pain modulation through genetic mechanisms: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/257682/
  18. A 2015 multicenter study at the University of South Florida, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, and Guiyang Medical University, in the United States and China, showed that acupuncture stimulation exerts many of its benefits via microRNA modulation and epigenetic effects: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/249013/
  19. More and more Complementary and Integrative Medicine physicians, such as Licensed Acupuncturists and herbalists, are focusing treatment strategies to some extent on the effects of acupuncture and herbal nutrient medicine in modulating and restoring healthy genetic expressions and modulation. For example, this practitioner on Los Angeles, Ricardo Miranda L.Ac. explains how his work can focus on the methylation of genetic expressions to effectively restore homeostatic mechanisms, and how specific acupuncture stimulations and herbal and nutrient medicines can improve health in this way: http://www.acupuncture.cc/genetics-epigenetics/