Oct 29, 2018

Studies raise questions over how epigenetic information is inherited

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, health

Evidence has been building in recent years that our diet, our habits or traumatic experiences can have consequences for the health of our children — and even our grandchildren. The explanation that has gained most currency for how this occurs is so-called ‘epigenetic inheritance’ — patterns of chemical ‘marks’ on or around our DNA that are hypothesised to be passed down the generations. But new research from the University of Cambridge suggests that this mechanism of non-genetic inheritance is likely to be very rare.

A second study, also from Cambridge, suggests, however, that one way that environmental effects are passed on may in fact be through molecules produced from the DNA known as RNA that are found in a father’s sperm.

The mechanism by which we inherit innate characteristics from our parents is well understood: we inherit half of our genes from our mother and half from our father. However, the mechanism whereby a ‘memory’ of the parent’s environment and behaviour might be passed down through the generations is not understood.

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