The discovery of DNA has greatly enhanced our understanding of life and its complexities. However, understanding DNA is just the beginning. DNA orchestration and expression are of mind blowing, Biblical, proportions of complexity. This orchestration is a field of study called epigenetics; a term coined in the 1940’s and currently one of the hottest topics of research. Epigenetics may very well be the most important scientific discovery of our generation.
Consider a nest of eggs. The DNA is fixed in the nucleus of each egg. After a month or so, the eggs will incubate and be transformed into chicks. These chicks all look alike, but no longer resemble the egg from which they came. Their DNA has not changed. Every cell in their body, in collaboration with every other cell, has expressed itself as this baby chick. After a few weeks they increase in size and grow bigger wings, their fuzz turns into feathers, and muscles become toned for flight. At each stage, the babies, in this case robins, all look alike; their DNA is expressed in like manner for each of the chicks; every cell is expressing itself differently, but in concert with every other cell, doing its part to produce a fledgling. Amazingly, the robin’s DNA does not change, but the robins do; they change a lot. They all grow at the same rate and fledge at the same time. Finally, we have mature birds, all approximately the same size and approximately the same physical appearance. The DNA is fixed from egg till death, but the expression of the robin’s DNA is changed drastically from one stage to another. Everything is performing with perfect orchestration and expression.
So, the question is, what mechanism produces this orchestration? It is explained by epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how DNA is packed into the cell and with which chemicals it is packed. The result of this packing regulates which genes are expressed and to what extent. Each time a cell divides, it is subject to new packing arrangements. Each cell is different and each cell packs in concert with every other cell; each doing its part. This is a miracle. Every stage of growth and development is a miracle. An extreme example of epigenetics is the butterfly. During metamorphosis, the larva changes to a butterfly, totally different from the larva in appearance and metabolism. And, it happens very quickly. The cell divisions act in unison with all cells to regulate gene expression and produce what looks like a totally different creature even though the DNA remains fixed.
Epigenetics is a system of turning genes off and on. We humans have just over 20,000 genes in our body and each of these genes can be expressed or not depending on how tightly it is wound and with which chemicals it is packed. Therefore, with the butterfly, one combination of genes is expressed to build the larva and another combination of genes is expressed for constructing the mature butterfly. No matter how the DNA is packed, it cannot construct a moth, a bird, or a chimpanzee; it can only express the various stages of that species of butterfly.
Now let’s look at human epigenetics and make it a bit more personal. What regulates and orchestrates our DNA packing? The answer is, “our personal DNA coupled with our environment determines how our DNA is packed.” This environment includes: diet, air quality, stress, friends, attitude, purpose, and spiritual beliefs. The environment triggers receptors, switches, hormones, and electrical signals: these triggers affect how our DNA is expressed. In summary, not only does your DNA regulate gene expression, but so does our physical and spiritual environment. We have a blog (part 2 of this blog) that shows both the physical and spiritual effects of epigenetics using laboratory tests of mice and rats.
Now that we have given the basics, it is time to shock you with the complexity of epigenetics. Consider you. You looked different when you were a fetus and you looked different as a new born. Then came the toddler years and adolescent years. Every decade you look different. Each cell in your body must do its part in making you, you for each period of your life. Latest estimates are that a human body has 37.2 trillion cells. Each cell contains about 6 feet of DNA. Therefore, you have 6 X 37.2 = 223.2 trillion feet of DNA that must be orchestrated to make you, you. If we take this 223.2 trillion feet of DNA and divide by 5280 (feet in a mile) and take that and divide by the distance to the sun (93 million miles), we get 459.07. This is shocking! This means that if you stretch out your DNA, it is long enough to make approximately 230 round trips to the sun. This is complexity of Biblical proportions. Each of these 6-foot strands must do its part in the orchestration with all the other 37.2 trillion strands to produce you at any point in your life. Only divine intellect and ingenuity can explain complexity of this proportion.
Dear friends and children, if you believe the Bible you are doing well. The complexity of life is of Biblical proportions and cannot be explained by chaos. When we face the creator, we will be able to say, “we believed your Word, that you created all things.”