The word epigenetics derives from the Greek, where epi means above, it refers to the presence of factors that can affect genetics by modifying the way it is expressed. These factors are mainly environmental conditions, capable of modifying the processes and chemical reactions that occur in the organism and that lead to the information contained in the genes being expressed or not.

In the past, understanding of disease focused on the interaction between inherited genes (for example, in the case of diabetes) and the environment (for example, eating habits and physical activity). However, researchers have always wondered how the risks and frequency of some conditions seem to change from one generation to the next. After all, according to traditional genetics, major changes in the structure of the human genome only occur over several generations or even thousands of years. But, the concept of epigenetics reveals information that explains how these changes can happen faster.

A growing body of research seems to support the role of parental lifestyles and the (possibly permanent) effects they have on the health of their children, grandchildren, and others.

While it may not be possible to reverse changes in “genetic on-off switches” that are passed on to children already born, leading a healthier life could be invaluable to the health of future children and their children . Epigenetics not only applies to the transfer of potentially negative characteristics or health risks, but also to the benefits of inheriting healthy factors.

Scientists also apply the concept of epigenetics to the development of new approaches to treating diseases that have genetic causes. It currently produces drugs that activate or deactivate defective genes through an epigenetic mechanism. This kind of genetic “quick fix” could lead to cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Genes may require activators or inhibitors that favor or inhibit their expression, factors such as adding small fractions of molecules to DNA are capable of changing the way in which this chain is ordered in space, facilitating or limiting the access of the transcription apparatus of the genes. genes, which will eventually lead or not to synthesize the proteins for which the gene codes.

Finally, this change in the DNA conformation will have a great impact since the transcription of some genes is the mechanism responsible for the development of various types of disorders such as autism or even some types of cancer.

Epigenetics is a complex but exciting subject, since it opens the door to the possibility of developing the field of gene therapy with which, in the not too distant future, it will be possible to carry out actions such as suppressing the development of cancer, with changes that offer the possibility of being transmitted from generation to generation.