Epigenetics: The sins of the father

A while back I linked to a BBC story on the discovery that mice could pass on a learned fear of certain smells to their descendants.  This is an almost Lamarckian observation, one that may indicate that the long discredited scientific theory of acquired traits being inheritable may have had a glimmer of truth.

This article talks about just how freaky that discovery was, since the information chain such an acquired characteristic has to travel is fraught with steps that it shouldn’t survive.

When Brian Dias became a father last October, he was, like any new parent, mindful of the enormous responsibility that lay before him. From that moment on, every choice he made could affect his newborn son’s physical and psychological development. But, unlike most new parents, Dias was also aware of the influence of his past experiences — not to mention those of his parents, his grandparents and beyond.

Where one’s ancestors lived, or how much they valued education, can clearly have effects that pass down through the generations. But what about the legacy of their health: whether they smoked, endured famine or fought in a war?

via Epigenetics: The sins of the father : Nature News & Comment.

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