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Persistence of epigenetic changes “fascinating and confusing”

At The Scientist: "In a study published February 7 in Cell, a group of scientists tracked an engineered epigenetic mutation across four generations of lab-bred mice, finding evidence of the alteration in each of the subsequent generations. These alterations seemingly resurfaced even after the epigenetic wipe. " Read More ›

Researchers: Blind mouse pups prepared for sight

Researcher: “I love this paper. It blew my mind,” says David Berson, who studies the visual system at Brown University and was not involved in the research. “What it implies is that evolution has built a visual system that can simulate the patterns of activity that it will see later when it’s fully mature and the eyes are open, and that [the simulated pattern] in turn shapes the development of the nervous system in a way that makes it better adapted to seeing those patterns. . . . That’s staggering.” Read More ›

Epigenetics: Biologists discover 71 new “imprinted” genes in the mouse genome

Researchers: Scientists have yet to work out how one parental version of a given gene can be switched (or faded) on or off and maintained that way while the other is in the opposite state. It is known that much of the on/off switching occurs during the formation of gametes (sperm and egg), but the precise mechanisms remain unclear. This new study points to the intriguing possibility that some imprinted genes may not be marked in gametes, but become active later in development, or even in adulthood. Read More ›

Closing in on how early life stress changes epigenetic markers

The good news from this mouse study is that if epigenetic stress is recognized, it can be reversed. That means, presumably, that it won’t be passed on: In a study published March 15 in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that early-life stress in mice induces epigenetic changes in a particular type of neuron, which in turn make the animals more prone to stress later in life. Using a drug that inhibits an enzyme that adds epigenetic marks to histones, they also show that the latent effects of early-life stress can be reversed. “It is a wonderful paper because it is really advancing our ability to understand how events that happen early in life leave enduring signatures in the brain so that Read More ›

Irresistible! An epigenetic couch potato mouse

From the release: "Our findings suggest that epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, that are established in the brain during fetal or early postnatal life, play a major role in determining individual propensity for exercise," Waterland said. Read More ›

Coffee time: How cats court mice

This coffee time is dedicated to: animal mind  Urine: Surely not an incentive one would expect, if one must clean litter boxes. But this just in from From BBC News: Cats ‘control mice’ with chemicals in their urine Researchers found that when very young mice were exposed to a chemical in cat urine, they were less likely to avoid the scent of cats later in life. … This new study revealed that baby mice exposed to the compound during a “critical period” in their development would, as adults, react quite differently to their arch enemy’s smell. The team exposed one-month-old mice to the chemical over two weeks. When they were tested later for their reaction, they were much less likely Read More ›