From the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Michael-SkinnerPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner isn’t one to shy away from a good fight. In fact, prominently displayed on his webpage are the words: “If you are not doing something controversial, you are not doing something important.”

A rebel by nature, the 60-year-old AAAS fellow is fond of quoting Thomas Kuhn, best known for his treatise describing how scientific beliefs—called paradigms—are established and then torn down. For the last decade, Skinner has been tearing down biology’s bedrock, its paradigm par excellence: genetic determinism, the idea that DNA is destiny.

“Genetic determinism is part of the story, but it’s not the whole story. It turns out the environment has a major impact on biology,” says Skinner.

For over a century, it has been believed that genetic inheritance is the factor in determining life’s many forms, including disease. Skinner and his team of researchers at his WSU lab are part of a vanguard documenting important exceptions to this powerful rule.

Skinner studies epigenetics, or molecular factors that regulate how DNA functions, including what genes get turned on and off. His research has demonstrated that traits can be passed from generation to generation epigenetically, that is without producing genetic mutations.

Read all of this article by Nathan Gilles from the AAAS at http://membercentral.aaas.org/blogs/member-spotlight/shifting-genetic-paradigm-epigenetics.