The Epigenetic Inheritance

Epigenetic changes, passed on from one generation to the next, may have wide effects.

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What a surprise that life is

What a surprise that life is more complicated than we thought. Way more complicated than we thought. Wait until we have the tools to really measure and study things such as climate... or entire ecosystems... Maybe we scientists will learn a little humility.

DNA was never destiny (Verge

DNA was never destiny (Verge headline). More "science for headlines and hits". A metric even GenomeWeb lives by. The PNAS study by Guenard and colleague does not demonstrate changes of epigenetic status of children. It shows a subtle difference between two groups of kids raised in very different environments (in utero and ex utero).

A five year difference in the average age of the two sets of children (10 versus 15 years) and presumably a 5 year difference in time samples sat in a freezer. About 2% of genes are significant at a p value of less than 5%. Can you tell me why I am surprised this is in a sometimes prestigious journal?

Perhaps life is already complicated enough (surreal complexity). Perhaps purportedly intriguing and mysterious epigenetics "marks" are caused by mechanisms as mundane as dietary difference during infancy and childhood.

It would not be particularly

It would not be particularly surprising to find that metabolic differences among women could affect embryonic development with lifelong effects on the children. I would not really call that 'epigenetics' per se, unless one could show that there was a chromatin change in maternal cells that was transmitted through ova and not erased during meiosis. It may be relatively easy to find such phenotypic effects, and much harder to document whether they are genomic or 'metabolic'.

Hopefully with further

Hopefully with further research we can finally stop waving our hands at the sometimes profound but previously mysterious "maternal effects" (and increasingly, "paternal effects"). My bets are on the plant genetics community to make the most progress the quickest, since they've long been aware of environmental influences spanning generations (given that plants, for the most part, have to spend their life in one place, totally exposed to the rigors and vagaries of their local environment). I also find it somewhat ironic that, depending on how you look at it, Lamarck may not have been completely wrong after all.

Lamarck! For scribbling old

Lamarck! For scribbling old folkways he gets hauled out as some sort of sage every few decades. Wake me when blacksmiths' sons have stronger arms de novo.