Our families pass on pieces of themselves to us in more than one way. Your eye colour may be thanks to genetic inheritance, but not everything we inherit is encoded in the letters of our DNA. An affinity for Russian literature might be something your parents passed on via social influence, reading it to you before bedtime, just as their parents did for them. Life experiences such as trauma, researchers have recently found, can be passed on, too. Children can inherit the changes that occur in how their parents genes are expressed due to environmental stressors.

new study published Wednesday in the journal Science suggests those changes may impact more generations than previously realised, and sheds light on how those epigenetic changes occur. In studies of worms, European researchers affiliated with the Centre for Genomic Regulation found that altered states of gene expression can be inherited for up to five generations. Those changes, they found, can be caused by a glitch that occurs during the process that copies DNA during cell division.

“It’s not exactly like inheritance, because with each generation the chances of passing on those changes decreases,” Ben Lehner, a lead author on the paper, told Gizmodo. “It’s inheritance, but with a high error rate.”

 

Read the full article byKristen V. Brown at Gizmodo.

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