Studies raise questions over how epigenetic information is inherited

30 Oct 2018

Evidence has been building in recent years that our diet, our habits or traumatic experiences can have consequences for the health of our children – and even our grandchildren. The explanation that has gained most currency for how this occurs is so-called ‘epigenetic inheritance’ – patterns of chemical ‘marks’ on or around our DNA that are hypothesised to be passed down the generations. But new research from the University of Cambridge suggests that this mechanism of non-genetic inheritance is likely to be very rare.

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The body in miniature

20 Mar 2018

The past few years has seen an explosion in the number of studies using organoids – so-called ‘mini organs’. While they can help scientists understand human biology and disease, some in the field have questioned their usefulness. But as the field matures, we could see their increasing use in personalised and regenerative medicine.

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Baby gorilla

Mountain gorilla genome study provides optimism about population numbers

09 Apr 2015

An international research project to sequence whole genomes from mountain gorillas has given scientists and conservationists new insight into the impact of population decline on these critically endangered apes. While mountain gorillas are extensively inbred and at risk of extinction, research published today in Science finds more to be optimistic about in their genomes than expected.

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Ebola virus

Emerging diseases likely to be more harmful in similar species

17 Mar 2015

When viruses such as influenza and Ebola jump from one species to another, their ability to cause harm can change dramatically, but research from the University of Cambridge shows that it may be possible to predict the virus’s virulence by looking at how deadly it is in closely-related species.

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Early stage embryo

Shaping up: Researchers reconstruct early stages of embryo development

04 Nov 2014

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have managed to reconstruct the early stage of mammalian development using embryonic stem cells, showing that a critical mass of cells – not too few, but not too many – is needed for the cells to being self-organising into the correct structure for an embryo to form.

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Grandmother and grandchildren

Inherited ‘memory’ of nutrition during pregnancy may be limited to children and grandchildren

10 Jul 2014

When a pregnant mother is undernourished, her child is at a greater than average risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, in part due to so-called ‘epigenetic’ effects. A new study in mice demonstrates that this ‘memory’ of nutrition during pregnancy can be passed through sperm of male offspring to the next generation, increasing risk of disease for her grandchildren as well – in other words, to adapt an old maxim, ‘you are what your grandmother ate’.

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