It Is 100% Genetic and 100% Biochemical

By Richard Lewis

“I am fascinated and bewildered by the great excitement in the scientific community whenever a disease related gene is discovered,” said Dr. Hugh Riordan recently.

…smokers with a particular gene configuration run a high risk of developing breast cancer.

“It is not whether or not you have a gene that is important. It is whether the gene is turned on or off which is important. One can’t ever have a zit without the gene. But we don’t go around with zits all the time. That’s because the gene is turned on only in specific instances,” Dr. Riordan added.

This perception has led to Dr. Riordan’s appreciation for the fact that illness and health are 100% genetic and 100% epigenetic, which includes nutrient status. He has been, along with a handful of others practicing nutritional medicine, a lone voice in the wilderness, as science rushed headlong into genetic research. Recently, this has begun to change.

After describing how a woman was turned down for insurance because she had a genetic marker for developing cancer, Kathleen Fackelmann wrote in Science News, “The fictional example described above represents a far more common genetic tie to cancer. In such cases, an otherwise harmless genetic variation can predispose an individual to cancer, but only in conjunction with external factors, such as diet.”

Again, the cause of cancer may be 100% genetic and 100% biochemical.

At a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, a group of researchers showed that a common genetic variant, for some people, can increase the chances of developing a deadly brain cancer. Another group presented evidence that smokers with a particular gene configuration run a high risk of developing breast cancer.

“I’m thrilled that we’re showing there’s a clear gene-environment interaction,” Peter Shields of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland told Science News. ‘That is something that hasn’t really been proven until the last few years.”

Recently, Dr. Melinda Beck and associates found that the benign coxsackie virus can mutate and become virulent when its host mouse lacks the trace mineral selenium. Their research was reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

The researchers speculate that the animal’s weakened immune system causes the virus to change rapidly in the selenium deficient host.

Beck and other researchers had linked coxsackie virus and heart disease to selenium intake in humans as tell as mice in previous studies.

”This interesting work is the first to show that a nutritional deficiency accelerate evolution of a virus population from benign to virulent intact animal,” wrote Charles J. Gannett of the University of Texas  Health Science Center in San Antonio and Steven Tracy of the of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, in an accompanying editorial for the journal.

”This shows it is important to keep nutritional status in mind when looking at mutation rates of other viruses.” Beck, a viral immunologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, told the New York Times.

Again, mutation of the virus is 100% genetic and 100% biochemical. This quiet, little virus has the gene that allows it to mutate and become a vicious virus, but this doesn’t happen until the mouse becomes selenium deficient.

Researchers continue to study neural tube defects in newborn children that some have thought are caused by a deficiency in folic acid. Others feel the defects arise from B 12 deficiency as well. Still others believe it is failure of an enzyme to convert an amino acid from one form to another that causes the defective gene to turn on and cause neural tube defects. Folate and B 12 regulate this particular enzyme.

Once again, it will be a biochemical deficiency that turns on the gene. Without the biochemical deficiency, the gene doesn’t turn on and neural tube damage doesn’t occur.

Dr. Riordan has been interested in slime molds because they are such a dramatic example of how and why organisms change. Slime molds exist as flat growths on the forest floor until they run out of niacin. When they are out of niacin, all the cells begin pulsing in unison, shoot up stalks, and send out spores in search of food. The cells change when they run out of nutrients.

With the slime molds, as with all organic material, it is 100% genetic and 100% biochemical.