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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Reprogramming of DNA observed in human germ cells for first time

04 Jun 2015

A team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge has described for the first time in humans how the epigenome – the suite of molecules attached to our DNA that switch our genes on and off – is comprehensively erased in early primordial germ cells prior to the generation of egg and sperm.

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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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Queen bee larvae

How large is the alphabet of DNA?

12 Dec 2013

New sequencing technology is transforming epigenetics research, and could greatly improve understanding of cancer, embryo formation, stem cells and brain function.

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Sleeping sickness by stealth

04 Feb 2013

New research is helping to unveil how the parasite that causes sleeping sickness uses stealth tactics to escape detection by the human immune system.

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