And gosh, weren’t we hoping it was a pile, but never mind… 😉
Male mice bequeath an unexpected legacy to their progeny. Two studies published online this week in Science reveal that sperm from the rodents carry pieces of RNAs that alter the metabolism of their offspring. The RNAs spotlighted by the studies normally help synthesize proteins, so the findings point to an unconventional form of inheritance. The results are “exciting and surprising, but not impossible,” says geneticist Joseph Nadeau of the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute in Seattle, Washington.
“Impossible” is exactly how biologists once described so-called epigenetic inheritance, in which something other than a DNA sequence passes a trait between generations. In recent years, however, researchers have found many examples. A male mouse’s diet and stress level, for instance, can tweak offspring metabolism. Researchers are still trying to determine how offspring inherit a father’s metabolic attributes and physiological condition. Some evidence implicates chemical modification of DNA. Other work by neuroscientist Tracy Bale of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia and colleagues has found that mammalian sperm pack gene-regulating molecules called microRNAs.
Prediction: Epigenetics will revolutionize theories about evolution, clearing the decks of many useless controversies—incidentally providing a powerful argument against “scientific” Darwinian racism. What if much that we need to know about a person is not in their genes anyway? People who are marketing unrealistic “identity” conflicts these days could find themselves with some deserved duds.
Researchers now need to ask “how permanent these changes are and how quickly they can be reversed by changing diet,” says developmental endocrinologist Susan Ozanne of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The effects of the RNA fragments don’t have to be harmful, Chen notes. “If a bad diet can influence us, I think a healthy diet can do it in the same way,” he predicts. More.
Curiously, people who care for animals sense this. Ask your vet about a science-based diet vs. offal from slaughterhouses canned cheaply for pets.
See also: Grafted plants can share epigenetic traits Researcher: Our study showed genetic information is actually flowing from one plant to the other. That’s the surprise to me.
Is it safe for this 2004 paper to come out now? Evolution by epigenesis: farewell to Darwinism, neo- and otherwise.
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
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