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Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Your Biology

An expert in epigenetics explains the deep chemistry of life.
Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Your Biology is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 29.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from We've come a LONG way! Every course I watch is preceded by a web search on the presenter. When this course premiered on Wondrium, I found Dr. Charlotte Mykura's site which stated that, among other things, she was a "science comedian." Well, that did it for me--next! Some months (and reviews) later, I returned, took a look at the content and for better or for worse, decided to take the plunge. When I was in med school (early '70s) epigenetics was, to use a trite old phrase, "just a twinkle in its Daddy's (genetics) eye." There was precious little information on genetics, much less epigenetics. So come on, Doc--teach me. And teach she did! The amount of information now available is staggering! In the relatively few years she has been in the field, Dr. Mykura's understanding and grasp of the ins and outs of epigenetics amazed me. Her choice of graphics, especially the computer-generated models of the cellular nucleus at 10,000,000X magnification, was excellent. Rather than static graphics, these imitated the movement of the DNA strands when they come in contact with proteins, etc. Twelve lectures is precious little time to give one a feeling of comfort in epigenetics and there were terms and concepts which were foreign to me. Given the constraints of the course, Dr. Mykura did an admirable job of explaining them. Some she left unexplained but a look in the course guidebook took over where she left off. If you're interested in discovering not only what changes epigenetics can cause in DNA but also HOW those changes are made, then this course is for you. Even this crusty ol' Doc learned more than he hoped for! Finally, there have been some reviewers who have commented negatively as to her delivery style. "Wide-eyed and emphatic," said one and "seemed to try WAY too hard to get me interested in epigenetics," said another. Okay, I can see the validity in that but for me it didn't distract from the information presented. And when push comes to shove, I'll take a wide-eyed and empathetic presenter any day over a dull, monotoned one. Keep up the good work, Doc--hope to see another series by you!!!
Date published: 2023-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I already knew a lot--this taught me more! This course is a tour de force. As someone who knows classical molecular biology and bits and pieces of epigenetics, I found it wonderfully unifying. The level of the presentation should be comprehensible to a bright high school student, while not boring more advanced learners. The instructor is very excited about the subject, and presents it brilliantly. Let’s have more lessons from her! There are a few tiny errors, which I hope can be corrected (DNA is a right-handed helix, about 3 billion base pairs in humans) but most knowledgeable listeners will know the correct answers already. Also there is a glitch in lecture 10, which stops at about 3 minutes. By going to the next lecture and manually scrolling back I was able to get most of it, but a repair is urgently needed.
Date published: 2023-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thunder! I found Dr. Mykura's presentation engaging. The graphics were amazing! The epigenetic jungle makes a lot of sense. My father was a veterinary pathologist. For a stretch of his career, he worked on cloning mice for research. The quest for discovery requires a way to produce lab specimens as near alike as possible to reduce experimental confounds. I work in a healthcare specialty. In my training we were exposed to epigenetics, health impacts in disease and disordered states and the important epigenetic effects of therapies targeting cell function with sequelae in cycles and cascades. This course may be best appreciated by learners with a curiosity about life sciences. I was blown away. Dr. Mykura's lessons are very welcome pulling back the veil on the state of the science. I googled for sources on epigenetics. I found very few on epigenetics and the best rated in print 10 years or more. Not very recent. I wonder if this might in part be due to the enormous potential for therapeutic interventions driving this research. I would definitely be interested in seeing Dr. Mykura's work in print. The beauty of the work is apparent to me. The story is quite compelling. Perhaps not as direct as the Cherokee spirit tales on how the possum lost his bushy tail, how mole came to live underground, how the kingfisher got its beak, but I think the reader gets the drift. Dr. Mykura's conclusions bear further research and more consideration. There is a wealth of wisdom in this presentation and peer reviewed. Thunder!
Date published: 2023-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Very Best After reading the reviews, I tentatively decided to have a go at this course because the various criticisms seemed indecorous. I don't know (or care) if Dr. Mykura was “reading" the transcript or whether she appeared to some to do so because of TGC’s current “in your face / not strutting the stage” camera angles. Her enthusiasm was also ridiculed. I absolutely loved that she reminded me of one of my daughters teaching pharmacology at U.C. Others wanted her to report on citrulline (part of the urea cycle), etc., - biochemical topics peripheral to the epigenetic thrust of this course - even though she did discuss some biochemistry when she felt it was appropriate. Having given lectures to hospitals and the military on the molecular biochemistry of heart disease [see Mykura’s Lecture 5 (=L5)], I believe that she has marvelously integrated complex genetic lessons with a sprinkling of accurate biochemistry and brought them to a seamless, generally understandable level. This is enormous. ZINGERS: If any of these sound interesting, buy the course: L1 “DNA is...important...but by itself it doesn't do anything", "Epigenetics is the master regulator of DNA", "Everything in the 3D…nucleus has…potential to affect something else…even on the other side of the nucleus"; L2 “But while all this noncoding DNA was once called junk DNA…it is key"; L3 “histones...pushing and pulling the nucleosome in a particular way…to unwrap...DNA (forming active) chromatin", “The list of histone modifications…It’s like a code on top of another code", “RNA interference”, “Protein-based inheritance”, "Being obese switches your entire body into a state of pro-inflammation”; L4 “As (we live longer our) cells are being pushed into a less well-known epigenetic state: the state of dying cells", “one…factor that’s pretty certainly pushing clinically vulnerable people…toward schizophrenia: cannabis"; L6 Palm oil is a common addition to food. "when PPAR proteins detect…palmitic acid (it) leads to inflammation quite rapidly", In end-stage heart failure, epigenetics shifts “to more of a fetal picture”; L7 “In every cell, there are...hundreds of thousands of DNA damage events per day”, "...this RAD51 filament can then search for an identical sequence of DNA (within the DNA ‘hairball') to use as a template for error-free repair”, “epigenetics-altering drugs are already being used to treat some...cancer. But in reality…they might simply be adding a toxic effect to the cell similar to the effects of chemotherapy”; L8 "In the gut…(lining) cells are shed completely every 5 days”, "The vast majority (of autoimmune diseases are genetic variants) in the noncoding parts of DNA...important to (epigenetic regulation)”, L9 In placental mammal females EACH cell at the 8 cell stage “randomly selects an X to inactivate" - Thus, (in my opinion) no husband will ever understand which half of his X gene-“mosaic” wife he is talking to...or is it both? Does the Y chromosome evolve? “Well, it sort of doesn’t", "There's a spectrum of gender expression such as transgender and non-binary...this gender expression as far as we understand is a very separate entity to the genetics and epigenetics I’ll discuss here”; L11 Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance; L12 In the beginning… SUMMARY: This course covers a staggering range of disciplines in a well-organized, cleverly explained fashion. TGC and Mykura have put considerable resources into procuring extremely clear explanatory videos and graphics. Thank you. COMMENT: For those who hope for an afterlife based on Rev 20:11-12, this course provides some interest. The interest actually begins in the Great Course: "Einstein’s Relativity and Quantum Revolution", with Wolfson’s stunning revelation that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle creates “…a record of all we've done" (in the physical universe). Wolfson then (L19) anticipates: “some would wonder about the theological implications”. Mykura adds that a personal dimension is also recorded: (L1) "...the epigenetics of your cells remembers how you live, eat, and move.” This includes CNS (central nervous system) epigenetics that record both system information and personal choices. These records and an outside of time Biblical retrieval system may be well above my pay grade - but they are not beyond my interest.
Date published: 2023-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and up-to-date On the whole, this is a very good course. I would like to have learnt more about the molecular biology and mechanisms of DNA methylation, histone modification and nucleosome remodelling but that would have made the course much longer. I particularly enjoyed the sessions on X-chromosome inactivation and on embryonic development. Dr Mykura is an enthusiastic lecturer and her ebullient style took some getting used to, but it was worth it.
Date published: 2023-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite course from Great Courses I do not have a degree in Biological Science, but I have had a lifelong interest in this material. I thought I had a decent layperson's understanding of epigenetics, but I was blown away by what I learned in just the first two lectures. This is not a course where the instructor stands at a podium and just talks. The diagrams and animations are superb and make up the bulk of the presentation. Dr Mykura's passion for the subject is obvious and her explanations are clear and match the diagrams and animated material.
Date published: 2023-07-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Eh Few things: 1. Subject was really interesting, and I'm glad I found this course because there aren't many like it. 2. I wish it were a little more dense with information. I know it's a relatively young field of research, but I was hoping to learn more about the other basic epigenetic mechanisms mentioned early on (we learn quite a bit about methylation and slightly less about acetylation, but almost nothing about phosphorylation, ubiquitination, or citrullination). 3. Related to the second point, the instructor seemed to try WAY too hard to get me interested in epigenetics. The writing was so wet with hyperboles and superlatives and metaphors etc. I'm already interested; that's why I'm here. It felt like she was teaching a classroom of 2nd graders, rather than sophisticated information-hungry autodidacts, something I'd think most Wondrium subscribers would relate to. 3. I also made the mistake of reading the guidebook before each lecture (not really a mistake because I kept doing it), which made the lectures obnoxiously redundant. The instructor reads almost verbatim the script she wrote, reducing one or the other to obsoletion. The facial expressions seemed SO contrived (as if she were pretending that she wasn't reading off a script) and you'll know exactly what I mean if you begin the course. 4. All that said, you probably won't find a better course out there on epigenetics, largely because there's just so few competing with this one. But also, because this one really wasn't that bad, granted you can endure many hours of being spoken to like a child. 2 stars seems like a terrible rating, but the course was only slightly worse than average (3 stars).
Date published: 2023-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buy it if only for this chapter.. Dr Mykura is an outstanding lecturer on the subject and makes things very clear. The entire book is great, and even if you buy it for the chapter on the aging, it is worth the price.
Date published: 2023-06-06
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Taught by physician-scientist Dr. Charlotte Mykura, this course introduces the science of epigenetics, which goes together with genetics to explain physiology, heritability, disease, and every other aspect of living cells. You learn how the double helix of DNA is transformed by a host of molecules that constitute the epigenome and which implement the genetic code by switching genes on and off.


Charlotte Mykura

Within each one of our cells, we hold a beautiful epigenetic jungle surrounding our DNA that manipulates our genetic code.


North Bristol NHS Trust

Dr. Charlotte Mykura is a foundation doctor with the North Bristol NHS Trust. She earned her MD at Swansea University and her PhD in Epigenetics at Imperial College London, where she focused on protein complexes that fold, organize, and repair DNA. She is also a science communicator who has explored genetics, epigenetics, and evolution with audiences at such venues as the ZSL London Zoo and London’s Science Museum. Additionally, she has participated in several festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Cheltenham Science Festival.

By This Expert

Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Your Biology
Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Your Biology


Living DNA and the Epigenetic Universe

01: Living DNA and the Epigenetic Universe

DNA may get all the credit, but the behind-the-scenes manipulator of genetic information, making DNA perform the myriad functions of life, is epigenetics. Dr. Mykura introduces this exciting field, which is rewriting our understanding of gene expression, and how our behavior and the environment can influence traits that were previously thought to be hardwired into our genetic code.

34 min
How Your Epigenetic Code Changes

02: How Your Epigenetic Code Changes

Delve into the molecular machinery of the epigenetic code, that living jungle which controls our DNA. See how the central dogma of cell biology, that DNA makes RNA makes proteins, is only possible due to epigenetic processes. Also, see how epigenetic factors create a system of inheritance that is entirely separate from—but intimately involved with—our genomes.

32 min
What You Eat and the Epigenetics of Your Gut

03: What You Eat and the Epigenetics of Your Gut

Explore the epigenetics of food and how our diet can affect our DNA. A famous example is the Dutch famine at the end of World War II, which left a legacy of health problems not just among the survivors, but also in their yet-to-be-conceived descendants—an outcome that defied traditional genetics. Discover how epigenetics explains this phenomenon, as well as trends such as today’s obesity epidemic.

28 min
Can We Slow the Epigenetics of Aging?

04: Can We Slow the Epigenetics of Aging?

Epigenetics plays a key role in aging, giving humans long lives compared to other mammals, but also setting a limit on longevity. This raises the question: Can we use our knowledge of epigenetics to stop aging, or at least slow it down? Focus on an enzyme called telomerase, which in theory can restore cells to youth, but at a terrible cost. In this light, consider the advantages of aging.

29 min
Brain Epigenetics, Stress, and Memory

05: Brain Epigenetics, Stress, and Memory

The brain is the most complex structure that we know, able to produce an infinite variety of behaviors and store prodigious amounts of information. Learn how epigenetics governs the genes that are expressed within the brain. Then, look at brain pathologies such as schizophrenia that are partly due to epigenetic effects. Also, evaluate the impact of drug use on brain development.

31 min
The Heart and Lungs, Epigenetics, and Exercise

06: The Heart and Lungs, Epigenetics, and Exercise

See how epigenetic changes due to diet and cigarettes can affect the heart and lungs. For example, lung cancer was once considered a disease of genetic processes, but it is now known to involve many epigenetic mutations that disrupt the on/off state of specific genes. Then study a more positive phenomenon: how the epigenetic alterations from regular exercise can have long-term health benefits.

31 min
Cancer Epigenetics versus Your DNA Repair

07: Cancer Epigenetics versus Your DNA Repair

Follow the ongoing epigenetic battle taking place in all of us. It pits naturally occurring or environmentally induced cellular damage, which could lead to cancer, against the powerful mechanisms of DNA repair. Compare the chromosomes in a healthy cell versus a cancerous cell. Also, look at different cancer triggers, including ultraviolet light and the body’s hormonal and microbial environments.

29 min
Disease-Fighting Epigenetics and Immunity

08: Disease-Fighting Epigenetics and Immunity

The body’s immune system incorporates a huge amount of epigenetic complexity. Learn how this works in the two types of immunity: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is inherited and evolutionarily very ancient, while adaptive immunity can respond to pathogens that may have evolved mere hours ago. Probe the danger of immune cells attacking the body’s own cells in autoimmune diseases.

30 min
Female and Male? The Epigenetics of X and Y

09: Female and Male? The Epigenetics of X and Y

Why are there two sexes, and what does epigenetics have to do with it? Zero in on the X and Y chromosomes, following events that cause a fertilized egg with two Xs to develop ovaries, while an embryo with an X and a Y develops testes. Investigate why the Y chromosome has a minimal number of genes and whether it will eventually disappear from the sexual reproduction of our species.

32 min
Human Life Begins with Epigenetics

10: Human Life Begins with Epigenetics

Rewind the process of embryogenesis to individual egg and sperm cells. Although their epigenetic features are largely wiped clean, they still must orchestrate the complex development of an embryo to produce a baby. Study the steps needed to get to a fertilized egg and the even more involved epigenetic processes as the embryo differentiates. Also, pinpoint steps where embryogenesis can go wrong.

31 min
Inheriting Epigenetics in Plants—and People?

11: Inheriting Epigenetics in Plants—and People?

Does epigenetics mean that 19th-century French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was right about the inheritance of acquired characteristics? Learn that this phenomenon, called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, is difficult to prove, especially in humans. In the search for evidence, evaluate a prominent study of isolated human populations. Then, see that plants shed intriguing light on this question.

32 min
The Evolution of Epigenetics and Our Future

12: The Evolution of Epigenetics and Our Future

Turn back the clock to the era before DNA, when RNA may have dominated life processes, playing both genetic and epigenetic roles. Focus on the epigenetics taking place in bacteria, as well as in older, single-celled organisms called archaea. Go deeper into the diverse epigenetic activity in plants. Finish the course by looking ahead at the many promising lines of research in epigenetics.

33 min