Moshe Szyf, an Israeli-born professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and his research team at McGill University in Montreal, are convinced that they have discovered the cure for cancer.
Szyf’s lab owns multiple patents on DNA products and one patent pending, all for DNA formulations that he hopes will change the course of medical history.
In Szyf’s view, the cure lies within the human epigenome, which has to do with manipulating the methylation process—the coating of DNA—so that the on-switch for cancerous genes gets turned off permanently.
Ever since Watson and Crick unraveled DNA, the genetic coding within the cellular nucleus, DNA has been looked upon as the architect, builder, and overlord of the body, drafting a life-long blueprint and then using it to spearhead and oversee all the body’s dynamic activities.
This was all supposedly managed through a straightforward, mechanistic process of selectively turning on and off certain genes — the steps on the spiral ladder of the double helix.
According to what Watson and Crick termed the “central dogma” of microbiology, as if to underscore its acceptance as an article of faith, cellular informational commands flow in a single direction, from DNA to messenger RNA to the selected combination of amino acids to the assemblage of proteins.
Nevertheless, as the research of Shyf and countless other researchers decisively demonstrated (notably made famous by my dear friend Dr Bruce Lipton), genes, far from being the central controller, exist much as subatomic particles do, purely as a potential, to be activated or not by signals outside our body.
Research now suggests that information actually flows from the other direction — from outside in. An environmental signal of some sort alerts the body that a particular protein product is needed, and it is the outside environmental signal that activates particular genetic expression.
The intricate array of environmental influences to which we are exposed throughout our lives actually determines the final expression of every gene in our body.
Genes get turned on, turned off, or modified by our life circumstances and environment — what we eat, who we surround ourselves with, and how we lead our lives.
The cytoplasm or blob of jelly that makes up every cell in your body is encased in a semi-permeable cell membrane, a triple layer of fat-like molecules containing a variety of protein molecules that act as little revolving doors for other molecules to enter or exit the cell.
Whether or not a molecule gets through the cell membrane depends entirely on these gatekeeper proteins, which are called “receptors,” because they function like antennae, picking external signals from other molecules and in turn signaling to other “effector” proteins to modify the cell’s behavior.
The membrane contains hundreds of thousands of these protein receptor switches, which possess the ability to regulate a cell’s function by switching a certain gene on or off.
But what prompts the turn of the switch is an environmental signal— from the air, water, and food we consume, the toxins we’re exposed to, or even the people we surround ourselves with.
This in turn affects the chemical coating, or methylation, of the DNA double helix, which is exquisitely sensitive to the environment, particularly in the early stages of life.
During this process, the methyl group — a quartet of atoms — attaches to a specific gene and sends it a message to silence it, reduce its expression or, in some way, alter its function.
Szyf has discovered that a major hallmark of cancer is an aberration in methylation patterns, so that genes needed for rapid cell growth, invasion and metastasis aren’t kept in check.
Although other researchers think the issue has mostly to do with too much methylation around a gene, Szyf believes the problem has to do with both too much and too few; too much methylation in breast cancer, for instance, silences genes necessary to regulate cell growth, and too little tends to activate genes involved in rapid metastasis.
Szyf’s patents cover products that will regulate the methylation process in individuals with cancer, a process he’s been able to demonstrate with animals and human cancer cell lines in the lab.
Szyf’s work defies even current thinking about epigenetics. Many scientists exploring this new field had first assumed that epigenetic changes operated a bit like the butterfly effect in chaos theory, with its sensitive dependence on initial conditions; small changes occurring early on in your environment when you are a baby will produce large changes in genetic expression, but then remain constant through life.
Szyf’s work in the laboratory decisively demonstrates otherwise.
In a series of studies on animals, he showed that numerous kinds of stress responses deliberately ‘programmed’ into a variety of animals by one set of conditions early in life could be deprogrammed out of the organism by changing the conditions later in life.
In one study, Szyf was able to reverse abnormalities in baby rats caused by unhealthy mothering by handing the rat pups to foster mothers, who treated them normally. Epigenetic conditions now appear to be fluid, wholly reversible in adulthood.
Diet, the quality of air and water, the emotional climate within your family, the state of your relationships, your sense of fulfilment in life – the sum total of how you live your life and also how your ancestors lived theirs —has the most effect on the expression of your genes. Every factor in our lives conspires to create the physical person that we become.
All this means that the environment outside our bodies determines the environment within. A bond exists between the blueprint within our cells and everything we connect with in our world throughout our lives.
Like subatomic particles, our physical body is not a discrete entity, but the end product of a relationship.
So cancer, if it ever develops, doesn’t just mysteriously arrive, but makes its appearance when that relationship is unhealthy.
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