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integration of epigenetic concepts

Posted by Reinhard on 15 Sep 2009 at 10:56 GMT

This is indeed an insightful article regarding race in the
context of genetic and sociocultural factors. Hopefully it will help to stir up the discussion on the importance (or lack thereof) of a person's genotype.

Epigenetics adds another layer of complexity. These molecular mechanisms appear to mediate gene-environment interactions. Good evidence comes from a recent "Dutch Hunger Winter" study (e.g. Tobi et al, Hum. Mol. Genet. 2009): individuals exposed to famine (during pregnancy) are found to have epigenetic changes at certain genomic loci. Such epigenetic differences cannot be detected by classical sequencing/SNP techniques. Thus, at least in theory, racial health traits could be encoded be epigenetic mechanisms (Stöger, Bioessays. 2008; 30(2):156-66

The racial-epigenetics component has recently been addressed by Kuzawa CW, Sweet E (Am J Hum Biol. 2009 21 (1):2-15). Potential ethical implications are discussed by Rothstein (The Ghost in Our Genes: Legal and Ethical Implications of Epigenetics).

I think in the next few years we will see a shift/drift in the public perception on how we look at health and race issues - I am looking forward to read more from Gravlee and colleagues.

best wishes,

No competing interests declared.

RE: integration of epigenetic concepts

cgravlee replied to Reinhard on 01 Oct 2009 at 18:56 GMT

Thank you for your comments, Reinhard. My colleagues and I appreciate your drawing attention to the importance of recent advances in epigenetics and developmental biology. The paper by Kuzawa and Sweet is an excellent review of the issues:

In another recent paper, I also briefly discuss the implications of epigenetics and developmental plasticity for our understanding of racial inequalities in health:

Gravlee, C. C. (2009). How race becomes biology: embodiment of social inequality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 139(1), 47-57.

I share your hope that we will see a shift away from reductionist understandings of biology in coming years.

Best regards,

Clarence C. Gravlee

No competing interests declared.

RE: integration of epigenetic concepts

rigel replied to Reinhard on 04 Nov 2009 at 17:11 GMT

I had similar thoughts with regards to the potential importance of epigenetic factors.

Was data on maternal color and SES collected, or is an additional study to examine those factors planned?

No competing interests declared.