AbstractGet Full Text
Environmental epigenetics is the study of how exposures and experiences can turn genes “on” or “off” without changing DNA sequence. By examining the influence that environmental conditions including diet, stress, trauma, toxins, and care can have on gene expression, this science suggests molecular connections between the environment, genetics, and how acquired characteristics may be inherited across generations. The rapid expansion of research in this area has attracted growing media attention. This coverage has implications for how parents and prospective parents understand health and their perceived responsibilities for children’s wellbeing. This review provides insight into epigenetic research, its coverage in the media, and the social and ethical implications of this science for patients and clinicians. As epigenetic findings continue to elucidate the complex relationships between nature and nurture, it becomes critical to examine how representations of this science may influence patient experiences of risk and responsibility. This review describes some of the social and ethical implications of epigenetic research today.