Do some people just have good genes?
There is a theory in biology known as the “sexy son” hypothesis. It postulates that females choose partners irrespective of their value as a husband because of their physical attractiveness. Desirable traits such as fidelity and sensitivity may be subconsciously disregarded since these males will be more likely to produce sons with greater reproductive success, which will ensure that the female’s genes survive and spread further in the gene pool through having more grandchildren.
However, having good genes is not just a matter of success in attracting a mate. Physical attractiveness is not a predictor of long life or good health. Are there some individuals who win first prize in the gene lottery from the longevity point of view, and what is it that might make a gene ‘good’?
Genes are not just passive strands of DNA, but are part of an elaborate inner factory which makes up nature’s nanotechnology. They can be turned on or off by chemical messages sent by prompts in the inner and outer environments. A mutation can occur in a gene when the environment causes a change in the DNA’s amino acids. If the change is “bad” and these proteins can no longer do their job properly, the gene may become “bad” in the individual’s environment. Whether a mutation is beneficial or harmful depends on what the external circumstances demand – if you get a gene that burns energy faster you can run faster, but if there is not enough food available you may starve. Until now we have tended to think that diseases and disabilities are caused by the genes we inherit from our parents, but it appears that the environment – our diet, lifestyle, stress and emotions – can alter how a specific gene behaves throughout life. In this way a good gene inherited from a healthy, attractive or intelligent father can turn bad and the opposite is also true.
The DNA sequence does not change in response to environmental signals, but the gene function does. Epigenetics studies the signals which turn genes on and off, and these signals can be chemical or electromagnetic. Studies have shown that telomeres can even get longer in response to a healthy electromagnetic environment. However, children who have been raised in a household where a parent suffers from a mental disorder are more prone to stress-related disease. Exposing ourselves to violent scenes and images can cause further epigenetic modulation. Studies of the differing life-spans and diseases encountered by identical twins are clear evidence that having good genes is not enough. When we understand that with every feeling and thought we have we are engineering our DNA, it gives us an enormous degree of control over how and when we age.