Epigenesis as Key Concept for Understanding Functional and Disfunctional Reactions of Human Beings to Their Environment

Pietro Giuffrida, Francesca Faillaci, Lucia Sideli


Epigenetics is regarded as a promising research field to better understand the interplay between genetic and environmental factors underlying both typical and atypical developmental processes (from embryonic cell specialization to severe neurological and mental disorders). The aim of this paper is to describe the history of the concept of epigenesis from its Aristotelian foundation.

Emphasizing the relation between internal powers and external factors of change, Aristotle seems to anticipate the current meaning of epigenetics, coined by Conrad Waddington in 1940 and then developed by the modern genetics. The discovery of epigenetic mechanisms has challenged the static nature of DNA pointing out the dynamic and reversible changes occurring in response to environmental prompts. This stimulates considerations on the relational nature of life in the response to various environmental stimuli.


Key words: Epigenetics - Aristotle - GxE interaction - Schizophrenia

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