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The Relationship Between Epigenetics and the Effects of the Holocaust Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2022

Epigenetics entails heritable alteration in gene expression, which does not affect the fundamental DNA sequence. It simply depicts an alteration in phenotype but without a similar alteration in genotype. Environment and other external factors are responsible for such changes, and they influence cell recognition of genes.

Epigenetics changes are not regarded as mutations. The essay shows the relationship between epigenetics and the effects of the Holocaust.

As such, researchers have focused on understanding the effects of traumatic experiences, such as the Holocaust on individuals. To understand epigenetic mechanisms, a series of tests involving DNA methylation is performed to determine cell-specific gene-expression patterns and potential inheritance across cell generations (Yehuda et al. 00652-6). Tests are most likely to identify existing changes of DNA and the proteins related to DNA, which are responsible for the structure of the DNA and the availability of other elements related to the DNA. No alterations are observed in the DNA sequence. From a literal point of view, epigenetics depicts regulations above normal levels of genetic mechanisms. DNA methylation is the most widespread form of epigenetics. Further studies have led to new forms of epigenetics, including chromatin remodeling and histone changes. Conversely, DNA sequencing involves denaturing, annealing, and extending while gel electrophoresis can be applied to determine the shape of the DNA.

Yehuda et al. (00652-6) investigated genetic modifications associated with the trauma experienced by Holocaust survivors. The study focused on the engagement of epigenetic processes in the intergenerational transmission of stress consequences in humans.

Thirty-two Holocaust survivors took part in the study where cytosine methylation was measured (Yehuda et al. 00652-6). A linking protein, 5 (FKBP5) gene encoded for FK506 was the focus of the study to determine the association with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. It was established that the FKBP5 methylation gene had Holocaust exposure in several polyadenylation sites, associated with the higher genetic alteration. It was observed that methylation rates among exposed subjects and their children were fundamentally associated and, therefore, depicted higher genetic alteration in polyadenylation sites. Further, the gene was found to be transmitted to the descendants (Yehuda et al. 00652-6).

The results of the study were also compared with the results obtained from the control group of Jewish families who did not experience the Holocaust.

Children of Holocaust survivors have been known to “possess enhanced chances of stress disorders” (Thomson 1). It was noted that gene alterations in the offspring of Holocaust survivors could only be linked to “Holocaust exposure among their parents” (Thomson 1).

The study the researchers were therefore the clearest demonstration in individuals of how transmission of traumatic experiences could occur from parents to their children through ‘epigenetic inheritance’. Hence, environmental influence could have generational impacts on genes in children and perhaps grandchildren (Thomson 1). It can therefore be concluded that Holocaust survivors could have passed their traumatic experiences, which may inhibit their children’s abilities to manage trauma (Rodriguez 1).

Epigenetics is vital because it can predict health issues that potential offspring are most likely to have. It demonstrates how environmental factors and individual lifestyle choices interact to influence offspring. Conditions such as cancer, mental diseases, autoimmune disease, and many more have been linked to epigenetics. Hence, understanding epigenetic mechanisms can lead to discoveries and interventions in the diagnosis and treatment of inherited diseases earlier enough. Moreover, individuals prone to such effects may have an early change in the environment or lifestyle to avoid epigenetic inherited diseases.

Works Cited

Rodriguez, Tori. “Descendants of Holocaust Survivors Have Altered Stress Hormones.” Scientific American Mind 26.2. 2015. Web.

Thomson, Helen. “Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes.” The Guardian. 2015. Web.

Yehuda, Rachel, et al. “Holocaust Exposure Induced Intergenerational Effects on FKBP5 Methylation.” Biological Psychiatry S0006-3223.15 (2015): 00652-6. Print.

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