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  • Muscle Memory Present at DNA-level

    New research shows muscles have a memory of previous growth, which is structured in DNA genes. Muscle memory is reality and not a myth. There is scientific data to show how muscle growth is 'recorded' in DNA genes and how these genes can be activated later in life. This memory of earlier growth is an important discovery as it could be the foundation for better injury recovery and even a re-considered action plan for those using banned substances.

    Muscle growth at DNA level

    A 2018 study[i] at Keele University found that DNA genes were responsible with muscle growth in later life. Human skeletal muscle has an epigenetic memory. It means that those training with weights for muscle growth can actually 'record' this growth at an epigenetic level. The anabolic stimuli at gene level are activated with muscle hypertrophy at a later stage.

    The study was made using genome-wide techniques. Marked and unmarked genes were seen to grow together with the muscles and then return back to normal. Later in life, hypertrophy training saw the genes growing again. These epigenetic modifications tell the genes when to grow.

    So even if the genes go back to normal, they can start growing later in life. Their growth is considerably higher when there has been previous hypertrophy training. It is why the discovery can have a wide range of applications.

    One of the applications of the research can refer to injury management for athletes. If a person gets injured, it could help to know the genes which have the 'recorded' muscle memory for faster recovery. But one of the areas which could see significant changes due to the results of the research comes with bans from using performance-enhancing drugs.

    Banned substances can come with an anabolic effect on human muscles. It means that if an athlete is caught cheating, a short ban might not do justice on the long-term. Due to the fact that these athletes can come back with a major advantage over competitors, the way in which bans are given could be challenged. This, of course, remains true even if the returning athlete is not taking these drugs anymore. However, even the researchers suggest further investigation to show the extent to which performance-enhancing drugs influence muscles at a later point in life.

    Conclusion

    Muscle growth can influence the expansion of certain DNA genes. This impacts the DNA for the rest of the life. Those who take a break from muscle growth can even see muscle loss. But even in this case, muscles can grow back at an enhanced rate later in life, compared with those who did not previously trained for muscle growth.

    The recent study made with the latest genome-wide techniques can be one of the main triggers for those seeking to return to training. This includes athletes or weight lifters who took a break or those who are recovering from various injuries. As with other research, the 2018 study can be further investigated by seeing the extent to which these genes are impacted by banned substances such as testosterone-boosting steroids, especially later in life. The good news is that natural testosterone boosters are available as an alternative until then.

    [i] R. Seaborne, J. Strauss, M. Cocks et.al (2018) Human Skeletal Muscle Possesses an Epigenetic Memory of Hypertrophy, Scientific Reports Journal. Available at:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-20287-3

  • Is it safe to consume genetically modified (GM) foods?

    When I studied biotechnology at university, we discussed genetically modified (GM) products in quite a bit of detail alongside many of the ethical issues associated with these foods. One of our assignments was to write a 3,500 report to discuss the ethics of using gene technology. Initially I was indifferent on the matter, however after studying the subject in so much detail, I formed quite a strong personal opinion.

    GM crops have their genetic information altered by changing the sequence contained within the DNA structure. The DNA is essentially the complex code that tells the organism how to function.

    Over millions of years, DNA has been altered as a result of natural mutations from evolution. A mutation may occur in some offspring (be it bacteria, plant, animal and so on). If this mutation proves superior to the old genetic code, then the old code will become redundant and eventually the new code will take over.

    Consider giraffes as a very basic example. A pack of giraffes with various length necks have survived in a particular location with both tall and short trees - the genetic code for long and short necks are both as effective as each other. Several of them move to a new location where there are only tall trees. The giraffes with short necks die off because they cannot feed themselves. The genetic code for long necks proves superior in this new environment.

    Now natural evolution occurs over many, many, many lifetimes - we are talking thousands of years. It is a very slow process. With genetic modification technology, humans are able to implement changes on a large scale within a fraction of a lifetime.

    The problem with this is that we cannot predict with 100% certainty the effects of the gene modification. If the DNA of a plant is altered, we do not know the long-term consequences of this on human beings, other animals and the environment. Don't get me wrong - a LOT of research and clinical trials are carried out before releasing genetically modified species into the wild - but how do we know that this will not result in problems 50 years down the track? Could our offspring be adversely affected? Human beings have naturally evolved to consume natural food, not to consume genetically modified food. We really do not know if there will be consequences because this is such a new technology. We also still know very little with regards to genetics.

    Ultimately with this gene technology, I do believe that we are playing god. What should be a natural process is now slowly being taken control by human beings. This may or may not have serious consequences down the road.

    There are several examples of seemingly good uses (at least in the short-term) of GM crops. For example "golden rice" has been introduced to provide extra nutrients to malnourished people in third world countries. This has resulted in an improvement in their diet, but again the long-term effects are yet to be fully understood.

    There is no proof that genetically modified foods do cause cancer or other complications. There is also no proof that genetically modified foods do not cause cancer. There is A LOT of uncertainty on the subject.

    So my opinion - avoid GM foods.

    With respect to economics, it makes a lot of sense to study genetic engineering. If you can genetically engineer a crop to be resistant to a particular pest, then imagine how many dollars will be saved. Or, if you can GM a crop to grow all year round (rather than just summer), there are very obvious benefits to this too. Even imagine if you could engineer a plant to survive on 50% less water - how much better would Australian farmers cope during a drought?

    Plus, with the increasing world population, it also makes sense to look for alternative ways to grow more food. A large portion of the world is starving and genetic modification may be a part of the solution to these problems.

    But is it worth it? At our current level of technology, I don't think so. Personally I think that we are far too primitive as a species to even think about artificially altering the natural process of life. But of course, the above arguments also hold some very valid points.

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