'It takes a genome: How a clash between our genes and modern life is making us sick'

Feb 25, 2009

It's not just the climate that is struggling with what humans have done to the modern world, our genes are feeling the pressure as well, according to Professor Greg Gibson's recently published book.

In It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life Is Making Us Sick, Professor Gibson, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, suggests the increased rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's are due to human genes being unable to cope with the 21st century Western lifestyle.

"In the last two generations or so, we've changed our environment so much in terms of what we eat, what pathogens we are exposed to and the stresses we put on ourselves psychologically," Professor Gibson said.

"The rapid cultural change means our genes are no longer in a comfort zone - that's pushed us outside of the realm that the genome can normally tolerate.

"Because of that, we've gone from one percent of people being susceptible to these diseases to more like 10 or 15 percent."

Detailed in the book is the idea that, because genes evolve at a much slower rate than the environment changes, disease epidemics cannot be attributed solely to genetic susceptibility. Rather, environmental change is to blame.

Professor Gibson said while being able to identify the genes responsible for certain diseases was an exciting advancement in genetics, it didn't necessarily mean we were closer to predicting who would get sick.

"If we know our genes we have a better guess at who's predisposed to certain diseases, but we have to understand a whole lot more than that," he said.

"This book actually started out as a response to Richard Dawkin's The Selfish Gene, so I wanted to get the message across that, rather than us being robots that are slaves to our genes, genes are communities that work together."

The ideas in It Takes a Genome are the culmination of 10 years' research analysing how the genomes of various animals respond to environmental change.

The book is available to purchase online and is aimed at a non-scientific audience.

Professor Gibson is an Australian Professorial Fellow in UQ's School of Biological Sciences, having moved recently from North Carolina State University.

Source: Research Australia

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A trailblazer in top down proteomics

Oct 24, 2013

Ljiljana Paša-Tolic, better known as Lili, is EMSL's mass spectroscopy capability lead. With a scientific focus in biology, she is particularly interested in the biological applications of mass spectroscopy ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

8 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

menkaur
not rated yet Feb 26, 2009
yeah.. back to nature... let's live without antibiotics, medicine, computers, internet and everything else...
if i'm not mistaken, the people at that era had life expectancy of - how many? - 30 years?

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.