Game-changing Study: Epigenetic Memories are Passed Down 14 Successive Generations


The past of our ancestors lives on through us: Groundbreaking research illustrates how parental experience is not only epigenetically imprinted onto offspring, but onto an unprecedented number of future generations. Rather than occurring over the elongated time scale of millions of years, genetic change can transpire in real biological time through nanoparticles known as exosomes.

Until recently, it was believed that our genes dictate our destiny. That we are slated for the diseases that will ultimately beset us based upon the pre-wired indecipherable code written in stone in our genetic material. The burgeoning field of epigenetics, however, is overturning these tenets, and ushering in a school of thought where nurture, not nature, is seen to be the predominant influence when it comes to genetic expression and our freedom from or affliction by chronic disease.

Epigenetics: The Demise of Biological Determinism

Epigenetics, or the study of the physiological mechanisms that silence or activate genes, encompasses processes which alter gene function without changing the sequence of nucleotide base pairs in our DNA. Translated literally to mean “in addition to changes in genetic sequence,” epigenetics includes processes such as methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, sumolyation, and ubiquitylation which can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division (1). Methylation, for example, is the attachment of simple methyl group tags to DNA molecules, which can repress transcription of a gene when it occurs in the region of a gene promoter. This simple methyl group, or a carbon bound to three hydrogen molecules, effectively turns the gene off.

Post-translational modifications of histone proteins is another epigenetic process. Histones help to package and condense the DNA double helix into the cell nucleus in a complex called chromatin, which can be modified by enzymes, acetyl groups, and forms of RNA called small interfering RNAs and microRNAs (1). These chemical modifications of chromatin influence its three-dimensional structure, which in turn governs its accessibility for DNA transcription and dictates whether genes are expressed or not.

We inherit one allele, or variant, of each gene from our mother and the other from our father. If the result of epigenetic processes is imprinting, a phenomenon where one of the two alleles of a gene pair is turned off, this can generate a deleterious health outcome if the expressed allele is defective or increases our susceptibility to infections or toxicants (1). Studies link cancers of nearly all types, neurobehavioral and cognitive dysfunction, respiratory illnesses, autoimmune disorders, reproductive anomalies, and cardiovascular disease to epigenetic mechanisms (1). For example, the cardiac antiarrhythmic drug procainamide and the antihypertensive agent hydralazine can cause lupus in some people by causing aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and disrupting signaling pathways (1).

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Tags: epigenetics, gene, genealogy., genes


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Comment by Leppender on November 24, 2017 at 7:43pm

Thank you for writing this, although I consider myself to be a novice in the study of most biological sciences. I think I could understand enough of this article to say that it confirms my beliefs regarding the biological effect substances we take in have on our genetic structure.

So to really put this into layman's terms (and see if I do understand) if a person is taking anti-depressants they're not only altering their mental state, but over time our genetic receptors can be influenced or even damaged by the medicines. I still have a lot to learn about DNA (like the difference between a base pair and a chromosome).

Thanks for posting this even though it's a challenging read!


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