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Genetics and Mind Body Syndrome

MBS BLOG # 8

 

Genetics and Mind Body Syndrome

 

Everyone knows that genes “controls” our lives.  But how powerful an influence do our genes play in our lives?  Of course, these issues have been debated for many years since the discovery of genes and the classic experiments of Gregor Mendel in 1865 on pea plants genetics.  We wonder not only at the similarities of facial features of children and their parents, but also at their personality quirks that seem to be passed down through genes.  There have been many books that purported to show that genes control everything.  So, when we are told that a certain disease is genetic.  We often assume that we are destined to be affected and that treatment may have little effect.

 

First, you must realize that there are certain genes that do have powerful effects that will produce diseases if those genes are present.  For example, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia are diseases produced by inherited genes.  If you have those genes, you will get the disease.  However, it is also clear that different people with the same genes can have differing levels of that disease, even in CF and sickle cell.

 

Other diseases have some contributions from genes, but these contributions are either minor or variable.  For example, breast cancer has been found to have genetic components, but most people with breast cancer do not have the breast cancer gene.  There are genetic contributions to asthma and migraine headaches, but these are relatively small contributions in comparison to the effects of genes on height, ADHD and schizophrenia, which have heritability factors of 0.8-0.9.  The heritability factors of asthma and migraine headaches are in the range of 0.4-0.5, i.e. much smaller effects. Continue reading