Consciousness Based Health Care: modulating gene expression to achieve system-wide balance and integration through the Ayurvedic modality, Transcendental Meditation
John Fagan, PhD Cornell Univ., USA, Wenuganen Supaya, Ken Walton, R. Keith Wallace, Fred Travis, and Meera Srivastava
The core modality of consciousness based medicine, Transcendental Meditation (TM), triggers changes in the expression of specific genes that are likely to be involved in bringing about and maintaining a state of balance and integration in the physiology. Extensive research over a period of more than 45 years has demonstrated a wide range of beneficial effects of TM on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Consistent with these studies, research has also demonstrated that TM is a useful therapeutic intervention in acute PTSD, depression, and cardiovascular disease, and that health care utilization is reduced in populations that practice TM regularly. The physiological and neurophysiological processes by which TM exerts these effects have also been studied, showing that TM has profound effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and on other regulatory networks involved in responses to stress. Powerful methods have recently become available that make it possible to simultaneously measure changes in expression of all of the genes in the human genome. These methods have opened up a wide new frontier for research in consciousness, making it possible to explore in full detail the molecular correlates of meditation and of higher states of consciousness. This paper will present the first work completed to date measuring genome-wide gene expression in lymphocytes from experienced practitioners of the TM technique compared to healthy controls matched by age, sex, diet, and tobacco and alcohol use. Microarray analysis identified 74 genes that were differentially expressed in long-term meditators, 18 of which were up-regulated and 56 down-regulated. Micro-array results for selected genes were also confirmed using quantitative real-time PCR. Most of the 74 genes segregate into three regulatory networks having to do with immune function, stress responses, inflammation, tumor suppression, and cell motility, growth, adhesion and differentiation. Genes involved in the stress response, inflammation and cardiovascular disease were generally found to be reduced in expression in subjects who practice TM. In contrast, the levels of expression of two tumor suppressor genes were found to be increased. The observed molecular changes are consistent with the previously reported physiological benefits of regular practice of the TM technique—reduced stress and inflammation, and reduced cardiovascular risk.