The Biology of Hope

Science has now given us expanded knowledge that allows us to see, more clearly, the biology behind our ability to change our condition. I call this knowledge The Biology of Hope.

We come into this world with about 21,000 genes. (There is some disagreement as to the exact number of genes (some say up to 25,000, but most feel that about 21,000 is the actual number). This is the genetic material that we inherit from our ancestors, half from our maternal side and half from our paternal side. The genes create the biologically active molecules that greatly determine our experience of being alive. Some genes create molecules that determine anatomy such as height and hair color and eye color. Other genes determine how our body functions - our physiology.

The genes create molecules that can work alone, or in combination with other molecules, so that even though there are only 21,000 genes, there are a huge number of biologically active molecules creating our moment-to-moment experience of being alive.

James D. Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecules that hold the 21,000 genes, in 1953. It turns out that the 21,000 genes make up only about 2% of the DNA molecule. The rest of the DNA molecule has been labeled by science as, "Junk," because of the previous lack of knowledge as to its function. In September of 2012, the ENCODE (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) Project published 30 papers describing another 78% of the human DNA molecule. Funded by The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), 32 international centers coordinated by the University of California, Santa Cruz, have uncovered an enormous amount of information about our genetic material. It turns out that the 78% of the DNA molecule recently explored contains millions on on/off switches and rheostats for the 21,000 genes that make the biologically active molecules.

DNA Microarray technology, a way of telling what genes are active in a given individual at a given time, has shown us that we can turn on and turn off genes in a variety of ways. When a gene is turned on, producing a particular molecule, it is said to be "expressed." ENCODE now shows us the existence of the switches that can turn on and turn off genes and that can turn up and turn down the expression (production) of particular molecules. So, for example, we can turn off the expression of genes making molecules that cause inflammation. Or, we can turn on the genes that make molecules that help the immune system be more efficient.

In addition to the ability to change gene expression, humans have the ability to change the anatomy and function (physiology) of our brains. This ability is called brain plasticity. We can make new brain cells our entire life. We have about 200 billion brain cells, each connected to from between 2 to 10,000 other brain cells. The connections are called synapses and are physical connections, not electrical connections. The connections can be thought of as an old-fashioned telephone switchboard with many plugs. We can change those connections during our whole life. Thus we can change the capacity of our brains and the internal connections (circuits) of our brain cells.

The combination of the ability to change gene expression and the ability of the brain to change (brain plasticity) create what I call The Biology of Hope. We are not necessarily stuck with how we are. We can change biologically. This can mean that if we are suffering, the intensity and possibly even the existence of that suffering can change. There is hope that we can heal: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Why do we not empower peoples' own healing abilities (through the Biology of Hope) to be used along with whatever medical treatments might be needed from outside practitioners? The appropriate use of internal and all appropriate external therapies for any given condition is one of the visions of the Connected Healing Institute.