Mind over genes

In Mind and Movement by Bruce LiptonLeave a Comment

We are truly living in exciting times. The challenges and crises facing the world today are portents of imminent change in civilisation. We are on the threshold of an incredible global evolutionary shift.

Albert Einstein once commented, “We cannot solve the problems with the same thinking that created them.” The planet’s hope and salvation lies in revolutionary new knowledge being revealed at the frontiers of science. New awareness is undermining old myths and rewriting the ‘truths’ that shape the fate of human civilisation.

Leading this scientific revolution is a paradigm-shattering ‘new’ biology that illuminates the link between mind and body. These new insights challenge established scientific theories and prompt a complete re-evaluation of life as we know it. One of the most important advances contributing to the shift in scientific thinking is revolutionary new knowledge in the field of genetics.

Since 1953, when James Watson and Francis Crick revealed the nature of the DNA double helix, science has touted the belief that an organism’s traits are encoded in DNA segments known as genes. Within ten years of this discovery, schools and the media began programming the public with the belief that genes turn ‘on’ and ‘off’, and in the process, control an organism’s physical, behavioural, and emotional characteristics.

Through science classes, media, and personal experience with family lineages, the public has been led to believe that mutations in the genetic code can be expressed as diseases and dysfunctions that are passed from parent to child. In addition to perceiving that our fates are determined by our heredity, we are also taught that inherited gene programs are fixed and as unchangeable as a computer’s read-only memory.

While science has dramatically veered away from the notion of genetic determinism in recent times, educational institutions and the media still program the public with this archaic belief. In believing that we are victims of genetic forces outside of our control, the assumption of being powerless over the unfolding of our lives becomes a one-way street to personal irresponsibility. Too many have said, “Hey, I can’t do anything about it anyway; so why should I care? Overweight? It has nothing to do with me; it runs in my family.”

Forty years ago, while teaching medical students the then accepted science of genetic determinism, I was also cloning stem cells (multipotential embryo-like cells) for my research on muscular dystrophy. I would isolate one stem cell and put it in a culture dish by itself. The cells divide every 10-12 hours. After two weeks, the cultures would contain thousands of cells, all genetically identical since they were derived from the same parent cell.

Cells were split into three groups and each group was inoculated into its own tissue culture dish. A different version of culture medium, containing a unique blend of chemical ingredients, was introduced into each of the three dishes. The culture medium provides the cell’s ‘environment’. In one dish the cells formed bone, in one dish the cells formed muscle, and in the third dish, the cells formed fat cells.

The big question addressed by these experiments is, “What controls the fate of the cells?” Since all cells were genetically identical, the answer was a no-brainer: The environment controls the fate of the cells.1

This was readily apparent when I would put cells in a less than optimal environment, as the cells would get sick and the cultures would inevitably die off. To ‘heal’ the cells, we did not use drugs, we simply returned the cells to a healthy environment and they spontaneously recovered and the cultures flourished. This study demonstrates that cells adjust their genetics and biology to become structural and physiologic complements to their environment.

These pioneering experiments presaged one of today’s most important fields of research, epigenetics. As mentioned above, the public has been programmed with the conventional concept of genetic control, which literally means, ‘control by genes’. In the new term epigenetics, the Greek prefix epi– means ‘above’. Consequently, the science of epigenetic control literally means, “control above the genes!” 2, 3

Science introduced the notion that genes were ‘self-emergent’, meaning they could control their own activity. However, genes are simply linear molecular ‘blueprints’, whose codes are used to synthesise the body’s 150,000+ different proteins. Proteins are the molecular building blocks that provide for the body’s physical structure and behaviours. Genes are blueprints and, as such, they do not have an ‘on’ or ‘off’ state. To understand the significance of this awareness, just ask an architect if the blueprint she is working on is ‘on’ or ‘off’, and observe her response.

If genes do not control their own activity, what does? That answer is provided in the new field of epigenetics which focuses on how environmental signals interface and control gene activity. Epigenetic studies have illuminated the molecular mechanisms by which environmental information in tissue culture media selects and regulates the activity of genes in stem cells.

How do the findings in the stem cell cultures relate to you? To understand, we must first correct a general misperception: Though a human being is considered as a ‘single’ living entity, the fact is a human body is actually a community comprised of approximately fifty trillion individual cellular citizens. In truth, we are ‘skin-covered’ Petri dishes containing trillions of cells. Blood is the culture medium that nourishes and controls the fate of the cells inside our skin-covered ‘tissue culture’ bodies.

Changing the composition of the blood’s chemistry has exactly the same effect on body cells that changing the constituents of the culture medium has on cells in plastic culture dishes. This insight leads to a very profound conclusion: The system that regulates the blood’s chemistry would be, by definition, the system that shapes the fate of the cells and controls an individual’s health and biology.

The blood’s chemical composition is controlled and maintained by secretions from the brain. In response to our life experiences, the brain releases regulatory hormones, growth factors and emotional chemicals into the blood stream. The function of neurochemicals released into the blood is to coordinate the response of the body’s cells to our perceptions and emotions.

For example, when we experience the perception of love, the brain secretes oxytocin (a ‘bonding’ hormone), dopamine (a pleasure hormone), and vasopressin among other neuropeptides. When these neurochemicals are added to growth medium used in cell cultures, they profoundly enhance the health and vitality of cells. That’s why being in love feels so good.

In contrast, when a person is in fear, their brain engages protection mechanisms by releasing stress hormones into the blood. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, histamine, and inflammatory agents shut down cellular growth processes and inhibit the immune system in an effort to conserve energy for fight or flight responses. Consequently, chronic stress leads to both a breakdown of the body’s cellular systems and the onset of disease. From 75% to 90% of doctor visits in the United States are directly due to the effects of stress. 4 Simply—stress kills.

Under the belief of ‘genetic control’, we perceive of ourselves as ‘victims’ of our heredity. However, epigenetic science completely rewrites that limiting belief, for it reveals that through our ‘mind’, we can control the chemistry of our blood and in the process, become ‘masters’ of our cells’ genetic fate. Perceptions and life experiences control health. When we change the way we respond to the world—we actively change our health and fate.

Epigenetic studies reveal that gene activity is continuously being adjusted, day to day, to conform to our experiences and perceptions of life. The influence of environment is dramatically revealed in studies of identical twins. At birth and shortly thereafter, twin siblings express almost the same gene activity from their identical genomes. However, as they age, their personal individualised experiences and perceptions lead to activation of significantly different sets of genes.5 This is why one twin can die of cancer and the genetically-identical sibling lives a healthy, happy life.

Researchers recently tracked low-risk prostate cancer patients who opted out of conventional medical treatment and chose an alternate path. These patients engaged in three months of major lifestyle changes, including eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.

The health of the participants improved and researchers were surprised to find profound changes in the patients’ genetic activity when they compared prostate biopsies taken before and after the lifestyle changes. In the 90-day trial, the men changed the activity of 500 genes — which included 48 new genes that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off. The activity of disease-preventing genes increased while a number of disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down.6

Lead researcher Dr. Dean Ornish reported, “It’s an exciting finding because so often people say, ‘Oh, it’s all in my genes, what can I do?’ Well, it turns out you may be able to do a lot. In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live.”7

New science emphasises that we actively control our genetic expression moment by moment, throughout our lives. We are learning-organisms that can incorporate life experiences into our genomes and pass them on to our offspring, who will then incorporate their life experiences into the genome to further human evolution.

The new science of epigenetics prepares us to shed the notion of ‘victimhood’ and realise ‘mastery’ in the unfolding of our lives. The knowledge offered by this new science can be employed to maintain health and well-being in the face of global upheaval.


For further information on the new biology and resources that can facilitate the changing of limiting beliefs/perceptions, please visit: www.brucelipton.com.

1. Bruce H. Lipton, “A fine structural analysis of normal and modulated cells in myogenic culture,” Developmental Biology, 60:26-47 (1977)
2. E. Watters, “DNA is Not Destiny,” Discover (November 2006): 32
3. John Cloud, Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny,” TIME (January 18, 2010)
4. Lyle H. Miller and Alma Dell Smith, The Stress Solution (New York, NY: Pocket Books 1995): 12.
5. Mario F. Fraga, et al, “Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, no. 30 (July 26, 2005): 1064–1069.
6. Dean Ornish, et al, Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, no. 24 (June 17, 2008): 8369–8374
7. Change in diet, exercise may change your genes Reuters: June 16, 2008


Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. Cell biologist, author of the bestselling The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, and co-author of Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (And A Way To Get There From Here)

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