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Epigenetics: Stress in pregnancies inherited?

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From ScienceDaily:

Scientists investigating pregnancies in four generations of rats show that inherited epigenetic effects of stress could affect pregnancies for generations.

Researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Canada wanted to investigate how preterm births are influenced by stress. Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of neonatal death and can lead to health problems later in life. They examined the length of pregnancies in rats because in general there is very little variation between them. A first generation of rats were subjected to stress late in pregnancy. The following two generations were then split into two groups that were either stressed or not stressed. The daughters of stressed rats had shorter pregnancies than the daughters of those who had not been. Remarkably, the grand-daughters of stressed rats had shorter pregnancies, even if their mothers had not been stressed.

Not all of this will pan out, but it is an area worth pursuing.

Too often, in the past, people have concluded things like “She’s just neurotic. That’s why she can’t handle normal pregnancy stresses.”

But what does that mean, exactly? What if “just neurotic” includes an archive of experiences that helps shape outcomes? Just wondering.

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It's curious how many of these studies of epigenetic inheritance are always focused on negative aspects of traits inherited. But that's the usual evolutionary story of imperfection, flaws, mistakes, etc. Saw this today, bit off topic, but deals with inheritance of sorts with borderline constraints. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/08/tech/social-media/apparently-this-matters-zonkey/index.html ' DavidD

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