Name of field of science studying how environmental triggers can activate genes?

I don’t know how to phrase this exactly, I’m just going by what my kid said. It’s something she needs to look up for homework and she can’t remember the name of the field.

Maybe this should go in GQ but I’m obviously not too clear on what I’m even talking about so more discussion might be necessary, I don’t know.


That’s it! Thanks.

Grr. That’s not how I’d define it.

Is this a whoosh? Otherwise, what’s stopping you from more precisely defining what it means to you despite the admittedly vague definition from the OP?

(FWIW, OP, epigenetics was the first thing I thought of, too).

There is a lot of sloppy, inaccurate talk in the popular media (and I include education) these days about epigenetics. There are lots and lots of ways for the environment to influence gene expression that have nothing at all to do with epigenetics, and there are lots and lots of epigenetic changes that can be made that have nothing at all to do with the environment.

It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

If it’s an area you all are interested in reading more about, Michael Skinner at Washing State has been publishing a lot of interesting results recently. Do note that he’s rustled a lot of jimmies and he can be…prickly, but the papers are a good read. IIRC he is seeing F[sub]4[/sub] sperm defects after injecting F[sub]0[/sub] with various compounds. Pretty cool.

Well, yeah, I mean there’s no doubt that there ARE epigenetic changes in response to environment; I just wouldn’t define it as such when there are so many other things going on as well.

This is just 8th grade science and they’re discussing nature vs. nurture. Epigenetics is something that came up in that context. Hopefully the field is not being misrepresented by the teacher but I don’t see any reason to believe it is.

IMHO, epigenetics is a topic that few 8th grade classes are really ready to take on.

Basic gene activation is worth understanding. As an example how pale-skinned human skin cells respond to lots of UV light by activating the genes that produce melanin (i.e. tanning), or how weather causes plants to produce flowers or drop their leaves.

Epigenetics is about how organisms can inherit information that’s not strictly contained in genes. There’s a lot of interesting work going on, but it’s way over-publicized and often misunderstood, and IMHO, not a good topic for 8th grade.