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First Evidence That Parents’ Life Choices May Change Kid’s DNA

By Helen Thomson | *New Scientist ManHoldingDNA-39183766_m-680x380-Modified

For the first time, scientists have discovered a mechanism in humans that could explain how your lifestyle choices may impact your children and grandchildren’s genes.

Mounting evidence suggests that environmental factors such as smoking, diet and stress, can leave their mark on the genes of your children and grandchildren. For example, girls born to Dutch women who were pregnant during a long famine at the end of the second world war had twice the usual risk of developing schizophrenia. Likewise, male mice that experience early life stress give rise to two generations of offspring that have increased depression and anxiety, despite being raised in a caring environment.

This has puzzled many geneticists, as genetic information contained in sperm and eggs is not supposed to be affected by the environment, a principle called the August Weismann barrier.

But we also know the activity of our own genes can be changed by our environment, through epigenetic mechanisms . These normally work by turning a gene on or off by adding or subtracting a methyl group to or from its DNA. These methyl groups can inactivate genes by making their DNA curl up, so that enzymes can no longer access the gene and read its instructions.

Such epigenetic mechanisms are high on the list of suspects when it comes to explaining how environmental factors that affect parents can later influence their children, such as in the Dutch second world war study, but just how these epigenetic changes might be passed on to future generations is a mystery. Although there is evidence from mice that these changes can be inherited, classical genetics says this shouldn’t be possible because epigenetic marks on sperm and eggs are wiped clean after fertilisation. But now, for the first time, researchers have observed some human genes evading this clean-up process.

Escaping genes

Azim Surani at Cambridge University and colleagues have demonstrated that some genes in the developing fetus escape the cleaning mechanism.

Surani’s team analysed methylation patterns in a type of fetal cell that later forms a fetus’s own sperm or eggs. We would expect these cells to have been wiped clean when the fetus’s epigenome was reset at the early embryo stage. “However, about 2 to 5 per cent of methylation across the genome escaped this reprogramming,” says Surani.

Any methylation in these areas of the genome might therefore impact future generations – and could provide the missing clue for how a person can pass on hereditary changes caused by their environment to their children and grandchildren.

Schizophrenia and obesity

Because this is only a small proportion of the genome, Surani says most epigenetic changes brought about by our environment are very unlikely to affect future generations, but that there may be a small window of opportunity for some of these to be passed on.

[Read more here]

*Originally entitled: “First Evidence of How Parents Lives Could Change Children’s DNA”

Robert O'Leary 150x150Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com