This past Tuesday, Dr. Clem Persaud was on the U of T campus and gave a talk regarding epigenetics and its relationship to the life issues. I will give a summary of the talk and then give a little bit of commentary.
Basically, epigenetics is a new wave of science dealing with gene expression. It is now becoming more apparent that things in our environment, such as stress, the food we eat, exercise and maybe even plants in a classroom can change the way in which our genes are expressed. These changes can affect our health and even how we act and think. Dr. Persaud gave some intriguing studies demonstrating epigenetics and its effects on gene expression (these effects can even span two or three generations!).
What does all of this have to do with the sanctity of life? Well, Dr. Persaud mentioned the abortion-breast cancer link and health defects in IVF babies. In the first case, a full-term pregnancy, according to Dr. Persaud, protects a woman from breast cancer. Inversely, an interrupted pregnancy, such as abortion, can increase the risk of breast cancer. The reason for this is that during pregnancy the woman has a high level of estrogen. Once a pregnancy is interrupted, this high level of estrogen has no where to go and can influence gene expression, potentially leading to the generation of cancer cells.
In the second example of IVF babies, Dr. Persaud mentioned that defects occur during the prepartion of the embryo before implantation into the womb. The manipulations of the embryo during the IVF process can lead to changes in gene expression, leading to birth and health defects of the IVF baby.
Dr. Persaud was both engaging and intriguing while discussing the topic of epigenetics. I was impressed that he could take something as complex as epigenetics and turn it into a presentation that everyone understood and enjoyed. From what Dr. Persaud discussed, epigenetics could be another avenue in science that shows how treating life as a means to an end (such as IVF and abortion) can lead to negative consequences. UTSFL thanks Dr. Persaud for a great talk!