Audrey Hepburn, iconic star of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, was renowned for her waif-like figure. But her sylph-like beauty masked a lifetime of poor health which culminated in her death at only 63. Now, a leading scientist suggests that her genes were fundamentally altered through suffering starvation as a teenager in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.
Now Dr Carey, a British biology expert and former senior lecturer at Imperial College, London, has written a book in which she suggests Hepburn’s poor health was the result of genetic changes caused by her terrible childhood diet.
Such changes are being revealed by the new science of epigenetics.
We are beginning to understand how we are not simply born with genes that are pre-set for life. Vast numbers of them can be changed ‘epigenetically’ by our environments and diets. Genes can be switched on or off by this process, or the way in which they function can be altered.
Areas to think about:
- How might understanding epigenetics alter the management and prevention of disease?
- Does this affect the nature vs nurture debate fundamentally, or just add another complication?
- How might you design an experiment to study epigenetics in a research setting?