Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You are what your grandma ate

God knows what gramdma threw down her pie hole... but a part of that made you! And possibly your children and so on.

Study in mice finds eating habits affect traits in future generations McClatchy News Service 11/15/06 "Previously, scientists thought parents passed their genes on to their offspring, and no further. But recent studies have suggested that environmental influences on those genes can also be inherited...The implications for public health are enormous," said nutritional epigeneticist Robert Waterland of Baylor College of Medicine..."Most people don't want to believe this kind of inheritance is real. We want to believe that everything is encoded in the genes"...studied a special strain of mice with a genetic mutation that causes their coats to be yellow and also increases their chance of obesity, diabetes and cancer...supplements such as folate, choline, vitamin B12 and zinc added to the diet of a pregnant yellow-coated mouse could silence the mutant gene that produces the yellow coat in their offspring."

Now it appears that such supplements can silence the gene for a few generations. In this case the epigenetic change is good (and note those are mostly the prenatal supplements). However the darker side of epigenetic changes can be seen with cigarette smoke which can change genes leading to ADHD and asthma . What about other household, urban or rural chemicals (pesticides, insecticides and herbicides esp.) that have the potential to turn our genes on or off? There's a huge story brewing here.

Is there a more exciting area of science right now?

Good epigenetics blog here.

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