Scientists Finally Finished Mapping the Human Genome
Scientists announce they have finally completed the map of the entire human genome. Will the information contained within unlock our true potential for health and wellbeing, or is there another more expansive perspective on the role genes play in our lives?
After decades of research, scientists have recently announced the completion of the human genome, what some call “the genetic instruction book.” Widely used for guiding biomedical research, many experts herald this as a crowning achievement in the field.
Dr. Bruce Lipton is a cellular biologist and a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, which takes a comprehensive, cutting-edge approach to the understanding of our relationship to our genes.
“Most people are really excited about the fact that the human genome has been deciphered; they’ve identified how many genes are in the human genome,” Lipton said. “The original reason for the human genome was, it was thought the genes control all the characteristics of our life and therefore if I had a compendium of all the genes I could fix anybody who has a characteristic they want to change. Francis Crick, one of the cofounders of the story, came up with something called “the central dogma,” the belief that genes are the source of biological information.
“They’re translated into another form of nucleic acid called RNA. So, DNA goes into RNA which is like a xeroxed copy of the DNA, and then the RNA is used as a template to make the proteins of the body,” he said. “According to the central dogma, information only flows in one way — it flows from the DNA to the RNA to the protein. This led to an understanding called ‘genetic determinism.’ Genetic determinism is the belief that the genetic blueprint of your life is carried by the DNA that you inherited at the moment of conception.”
This “genetic determinism” was the prevailing theory of genetics for many decades. Lipton was one of the first to challenge it, beginning some 40 years ago.
“The central dogma was never proven scientifically. The central dogma was a suggestion and a hypothesis,” Lipton said. “Now, there’s a new science that really undermines that whole story of the central dogma, and the story is called ‘epigenetics.’ Cancer is under genetic control, so genes control cancer. The new science is that cancer is under epigenetic control. Well, ‘epi’ means above, and I say, epigenetic means above the gene control. Genes do not turn on and off; genes are blueprints. Genes can be read or not read, but the genes don’t determine which one is going to happen.”
According to epigenetics, what does determine what will happen?
“The environment, and more importantly, this is important, our perception of the environment — it’s the information that controls our genes. Change your environment and you change your genetic activity. Change your belief about life and you can change your genetic activity. Now, there’s something even more important and that is this: the old story is that a gene is a blueprint that makes a protein, fact. The human genome project has been whittled down to that humans have about 20,000 genes; there are over 100,000 different proteins and only 20,000 genes! Where’d all the other proteins come from?” Lipton asked.
“It turns out, how we respond to the environment —our perceptions of the world — can alter our genetic blueprint, so that a single gene blueprint can be used to create over 3,000 different proteins from the same blueprint.”
For Lipton the implications of this understanding are profound.
“Under genetic determinism, we are the victim, the gene creates your life. Then all of a sudden we go from victim to mastery, but you have to do it with knowledge. If you have no knowledge of epigenetics but are programmed with the belief that you are a victim of your heredity, then your belief about your family’s heredity becomes your life. Because if you understand you are the creator, then guess what? For the first time, if you understand the nature within, you have the power to change the creation.”
So how do we go about getting beyond programmed thinking and become masters of our genes?
To find out be sure to watch Part 2 of this Gaia News special investigation.
Ancient Mistletoe Could Be the Next Alternative Cancer Treatment
Mistletoe, an ancient parasite plant that grows on several species of trees, has been harvested for centuries. Loaded with symbolic traditional meaning, 21st century scientists at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Research Center are studying Viscum album, its latin name, to understand why mistletoe appears to relieve cancer symptoms and fight tumors. But a look back to the recorded history of mistletoe casts a light on the significance of the plants to humanity, at least as far back as the first century A.D.
Mistletoe History — the Druids
On the sixth day after a new moon, a group of Celtic druids, accompanied by two magnificant white bulls, gather around an ancient oak — a “king tree.” The leafless limbs of the venerable tree are festooned with shaggy green spheres dotted with white berries.
This auspicious day, when mistletoe appears on the sacred oak, is being marked with solemn ceremony — the Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe. This special mistletoe is harvested and hoarded to bless newlyweds, mark new alliances after wars, make medicines, and bring special luck in times of need.
Mistletoe, common to the forests of Gaul and Britain, is gathered for medicines and luck, but the appearance of mistletoe on oak, the chieftain of the trees, only happens a few times over many generations, if that. To harvest the sacred plant, priests climb into the branches carrying blessed blades to sever the greenery from the honored limbs. Others circle the trunk holding linen cloths to keep falling mistletoe boughs from touching the ground. After, to give thanks, the druids sacrifice the white bulls.
The Myth of the Death of Baldur
Scratch a Swede or a Dane and they’ll bleed pagan Norse myths. Scandinavia was the last part of Europe to convert to Christianity — a life-or-death ultimatum from Charlemagne did the trick. But the Norse pantheon and mythology persists in the Viking collective consciousness — the story of the death of Baldur is no exception, and mistletoe plays a featured role.
In Valhalla, home of the gods, Baldur, son of Odin and the good sorceress Frigg, was the most beloved of all. When Baldur began to have alarming dreams of misfortune, Odin disguised himself and travelled to the underworld to consult with a dead seeress who specialized in dreams. When he arrived, the underworld was in a whirlwind of preparations for a feast.
Odin, disguised as a wanderer, woke the seeress witch and asked who would the celebration would honor — she explained that the festivities were in preparation for the arrival of Baldur. She explained how Odin’s beloved son would meet his end, but when the wanderer became distressed, she realized she was talking with Baldur’s father Odin.
The chief of the gods didn’t waste time getting back to Valhalla to tell Frigg, who, upon hearing Odin’s tale, travelled the entire length and breadth of the cosmos to extract an oath from every being and thing; to never harm her son Baldur.
After, rocks and sticks simply bounced off Baldur, as they had all sworn they would never hurt him. But Loki the trickster donned a disguise and approached Frigg with the question, “Did you really get ALL beings to promise never to harm Baldur?”
Frigg replied, “Yes — everything but the innocent mistletoe. How could such a small, gentle thing hurt my son?”
Loki hustled away and made a mistletoe spear. The short story is that he got the blind god Hodr to throw it at Baldur, killing the shining son of Odin. The ensuing pandemonium in Valhalla, the underworld, and on earth, is long and complicated, but importantly, Frigg’s tears of grief fell on the mistletoe and turned into white berries. For some reason she blessed the plant and promised to kiss anyone passing beneath it. Thus our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.