We are entering a new era of personalized medicine. One size does not fit all.
One way to change your genes is to make new ones, as Craig Venter has elegantly shown. Another is to change your lifestyle: what you eat, how you respond to emotional stress, whether or not you smoke cigarettes, how much you exercise, and the experience of love and intimacy.
New studies show that these comprehensive lifestyle changes may change gene expression in hundreds of genes in only a few months—"turning on" (upregulating) disease-preventing genes and "turning on" (downregulating) genes that promote heart disease, oncogenes that promote breast cancer and prostate cancer, and genes that promote inflammation and oxidative stress. These lifestyle changes also increase telomerase, the enzyme that repairs and lengthens telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control how long we live.
As genomic information for individuals becomes more widely available—via the decoding of each person's complete genome (as Venter and Watson have done) or partially (and less expensively) via new personal genomics companies—this information will be a powerful motivator for people to make comprehensive lifestyle changes that may beneficially affect their gene expression and significantly reduce the incidence of the pandemic of chronic diseases.