A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO GATTACA…

The cost of sequencing a human’s genome is plummeting towards zero.  (It’s not quite there yet, but it’s not hard to imagine a day in the near future when genetic sequencing is done as a matter of course, like vaccinations for newborns.)

But along the easy availability of genetic information, we’ve gotten a surprise that people back in the halcyon days of Human Genome Project didn’t foresee…

There’s a big difference between knowing your genetic information and knowing what to do about it.

The analogy of genes as “the letters in an instruction-manual book of Life” is at least as old as the discovery of the DNA double-helix.  It’s a valuable analogy, because nucleotides as letters, codonsas words is actually a startlingly close parallel.

But no analogy is perfect.  And the famous DNA analogy might have skewed our assumptions about what we now call the epigenome.  Unlike the DNA sequences that directly code the manufacturing instructions of proteins, the epigenome controls which parts of the DNA instructions to execute, and when.  If we dare to extend a bit further, the epigenome would be a gigantic set of bookmarks, highlighter-pen markings, and margin notes where earlier readers have written notes to self about the really good bits.

AND THE EPIGENOME HAS PROVEN TO BE MORE SURPRISING, MORE COMPLICATED, AND POTENTIALLY MORE USEFUL THAN THE GENOME ITSELF.

Dr. Daniel Stickler is the new medical director at the NeuroHacker Collective, and a doctor who has devoted his practice toward helping people interpret their own genetic information, and optimize their personal health based on what the genes tell us – and how the epigenome can be tweaked.

At his Apeiron Center (apeiron is Greek for “limitless”), he and his staff use leverage genes to deliver individualized medicine — primarily preventative medicine, aimed at optimal health and disease avoidance rather than disease management.

In Episode #208, we discuss the state of the art in genetic screenings, Dr. Stickler’s feelings on “good genes / bad genes,” and the strange dichotomies that arise from working with a static genome managed by a dynamic epigenome that can change from one day to the next, one meal to the next, and in one cell versus its neighbor.

SHOW NOTES
  • 00:00:34 Episode introduction: Optimizing Epigenetics with Dr. Daniel Stickler.
  • 00:01:23 This Week In Neuroscience: Exercise and Perceptions of Exercise Habits.
  • 00:05:00 5-Star review shoutouts.
  • 00:05:40 SDS news and updates.
  • 00:07:37 Guest introduction: Dr. Daniel Stickler.
  • 00:09:12 Interview begins.
  • 00:10:26 The current state of epigenetic profiles and genetic polymorphisms relative to the past and the future.
  • 00:12:45 Can the epigenome be mapped?
  • 00:14:30 Reliability of direct-to-consumer genetic tests.
  • 00:15:45 Intervention templates used by Dr. Stickler and his colleagues.
  • 00:17:25 Evaluating whether the interventions are working.
  • 00:20:20 Program timeline.
  • 00:22:30 Genetic biomarkers and individual variability in responses to psychopharmacological compounds.
  • 00:25:45 Mutations and allele mismatches: costs and benefits.
  • 00:28:21 Strategies for enhancing physical performance versus those for enhancing cognitive performance.
  • 00:30:11 Case study; taking a “systems-based approach.”
  • 00:31:25 Nootropics and achieving a homeostatic balance.
  • 00:34:10 The importance of the lifestyle component.
  • 00:35:40 The Cognitive Ninja.
  • 00:37:49 What we can expect from epigenetics in the near future.
  • 00:40:17 Interview wrap-up.
  • 00:41:23 Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: What Human Stroke Victims Can Learn From Squirrels.
  • 00:45:00 Episode wrap-up.