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Epigenetics: Identical Twins Blog

The Identical Twins, Identical Fates case study was focused between the twins Elise and Shannon. Shannon has had serious health issues and Elise is freighted that her sister’s bad health would also inflict her. Shannon was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which has a tendency to run in families. Elise finds that she is 10 time more likely to develop schizophrenia than the general public. This is because she shares identical DNA with her sister, but how does Elise not already have the disease? Psychiatrist Dr. O’Brien has the answer, she tells Elise that schizophrenia is almost 50% heritable. The environment itself could influence DNA at a molecular level. This is called epigenetics. Example of epigenetics is the calico cat, because each cat has its own unique orange and black fur pattern due to alterations. These alterations are produced in the cells that produce that cat’s fur color during its development. O’Brien tells Elise that people with schizophrenia may have it due to epigenetic changes of their DNA. Elise is concerned that she might also have these changes, but she might not because her and Shannon have had different environments during their lifetimes. For example, Elise and Shannon spent their summers at different places. Epigenetics do not cause the same changes in every person even if they are identical twins because epigenetics is influenced by someones environment and changes. In certain studies DNA methylation patterns were abnormal in people with schizophrenia. Abnormal┬ámethylation patterns led to and abnormal expression of the genes. After looking further into the case Dr. O’Brien was sure that epigenetics played a role in Shannon’s schizophrenia.

This case was very interesting to read through and provided me with more knowledge on the topic of epigenetics. One new thing I learned was that diseases like schizophrenia can be influenced by more than just DNA. I am still confused about how epigenetics fully works, but now I know that abnormal DNA patterns can also cause issues of expressing genes too.

One thought on “Epigenetics: Identical Twins Blog”

  1. Epigenetics focuses on how diet, enviroment, etc turns on and off genes – no-one really understands the full details yet – an ongoing and future area of research!

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