Radio 4 on epigenetics and health

by Matthew Cobb

We’ve discussed epigenetics and the occasionally (generally?) overblown claims about it a number of times (most recently here). BBC Radio 4 obviously loves it, as after their ‘A revolution in evolution’ programme back in July (which we discussed on WEIT), the third episode in a new series on human development and how early experience affects later health (‘The First 1000 Days: A Legacy for Life’), looks at epigenetics.

I haven’t heard this, but looking at the blurb on the BBC website, it seems to be eminently sensible. After all, the genome is NOT a blueprint. It’s more like a recipe (but it isn’t that, either!) – if you change the ingredients (or in the case of a soufflé, the utensils), you change the outcome. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen to the programme here. Post your comments below.

h/t Dom


  1. Dominic
    Posted August 31, 2011 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    I listened to it last night and it did seem pretty sensible. Some of the work discussed was based on cohort studies on the Isle of Wight. They stressed the importance of the period when the uterus and eggs are developing in the unborn female foetus, so that is a time when environmental stresses on the mother may affect her grandchildren. They talked about diseases (I think they mentioned heart disease and diabetes) in the US south being linked back to food deprivation all the way back to the Civil War, then on through the great Depression. Worth a listen.

  2. Posted August 31, 2011 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Here’s the two parts which precede Part 3: Future Generations. They are also still available to listen to. Each part is 30 minutes:

    Part 1: In the Womb

    Part 2: Infancy

    I’ve found they make good listening in the bath 🙂

    • Dominic
      Posted August 31, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      An hour in the bath? How appropriate – nominative determinism!
      I just remembered the LERN group had a debate on this last September – Jablonka for of course –
      There are video links.

      • Posted August 31, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Excellent. Downloaded. See if the concept holds water 🙂

        I will watch those five vids tomorrow ~ three hours of train to kill

        “Dr Richard Chopp is well known in the Austin community for performing vasectomies”

  3. Posted August 31, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Also why not give Old Harry’s Game (Wiki info) a try ? It’s a radio comedy

    …set in Hell and the plot usually centres on the relationships and conflicts between Satan, his various minions and the damned. It regularly features famous historical figures and celebrities […] a foul-mouthed Jane Austen, a sexually predatory Florence Nightingale (who took advantage of wounded soldiers), and a vacuous Helen of Troy (accompanied by her plain-looking friend, Daphne).

    This subversive approach was also applied to God (first name Nigel), who makes the occasional appearance […] he says he created the universe accidentally, when he was messing about with some matter and energy. He put it down to have a sip of his drink and then, kaboom, he had a universe on his hands. Life on Earth was created for a bet, as Earth was dull viewing. God, for a bit of fun, sprinkled some mutating bacteria into the oceans, and ran a book with the other Angels to see which one would evolve into a creature that would develop a language first. God seems rather annoyed that things got out of hand

    I’m not sure if it’s accessible outside of the UK, but try HERE

    If not, you could use a VPN

  4. Davros
    Posted August 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    For those who would prefer a podcast, like me, the show is available via the BBC Radio 4 Medical Matters podcast.

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