Scientists Just Observed Epigenetic Memories Being Passed Down for 14 Generations

By Kalee Brown | Collective Evolution

Scientists have made some incredible new discoveries on how our minds can literally affect our biology, especially through the study of epigenetics, the branch of science that looks at how inherited changes of phenotype (appearance) or gene expression are caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Instead of looking at DNA as the only factor controlling our biology, scientists are also looking at what’s actually controlling the DNA, which includes our thoughts.

We receive genetic instructions from our DNA, passed down through generations, but the environment we live in can also make genetic changes. One of the more recent studies that explored this concept was conducted by a team led by scientists from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in Spain.

Scientists Prove How Far Environmental Genetic Changes Can Be Passed Down Through Generations

To figure out how long the environment can leave a mark on genetic expression, the scientists used genetically engineered nematode worms that carry a transgene fluorescent protein, allowing the worms to glow under ultraviolet light. They then put the worms in different temperature-controlled containers to observe how the heat and the cold affected their ability to glow.

When the worms were in the colder containers (20° Celsius), the transgene showed low activity and therefore the worms could barely glow. However, when they put the worms in a warmer container (25° Celsius), the transgene became much more active, evinced by the worms’ bright glow.  To test the worms even further, the scientists took the warm, glowing worms and put them back in the cold containers.

To their surprise, the worms continued to glow, which to the scientists meant that they retained an “environmental memory” of the warmer temperature, allowing the transgene to remain active. When the worms had offspring, that memory was actually passed on to their children for seven generations, allowing them to glow brightly despite never having experienced a warmer climate.

To further test their epigenetic capabilities, the scientists kept five generations in a warmer climate of 25° Celsius and then separated their offspring from them, putting them in colder temperatures. However, the worms still continued to have the highly active transgene for 14 generations. This study marks the longest scientists have ever witnessed the passing-down of an environmentally induced genetic change.

[Read more here]

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