TED Talk: Epigenetics & Your Biology

This fascinating presentation by Moshe Szyf presents research focused on understanding the broad implications of epigenetic mechanisms in human behavior, health and disease. Moshe Szyf is one of the leading pioneers in the field of epigenetics.  Once you gain a baseline understanding of epigenetics, you can understand how predictive bio-markers can be harnessed applications that provide predictive analytics for the life insurance industry.

Moshe Szyf research shows how living things actually reprogram their genome in response to social and environmental factors such as stress or lack of food. His research not only explains how our biology responds to the conditions we experience while we are alive, but also suggests that biochemical signals are passed from mothers to offspring tell the child what kind of world they’re going to live in, changing the expression of genes. “DNA isn’t just a sequence of letters; it’s not just a script.” Szyf says, whose expression of “DNA is a dynamic movie in which our experiences are being written.”

Szyf challenges our understanding of DNA, biological organization and purpose.  His research reveals evidence of a much more complex notion of biology that brings forth much more controversial notions that we humans, and all biology for that matter, are vessels serving complicated evolutionary biological masters whose sole intent is survival and procreation.  These are big thoughts for humans to wrap their minds around, as we tend to think of ourselves as thinking, conscious, self-determinative beings – while epigenetics tends to inform us that we are chemical expressions reacting to our environment whose code seeks to evolve and survive.

Szyf received his PhD from the Hebrew University and did his postdoctoral fellowship in Genetics at Harvard Medical School, joined the department in 1989 and currently holds a James McGill Professorship and GlaxoSmithKline-CIHR Chair in Pharmacology. He is the founding co-director of the Sackler Institute for Epigenetics and Psychobiology at McGill and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Experience-based Brain and Biological Development program.