Children inherit their mother’s experience
Animal experiments question the laws of classical genetics

The experiences of a mother can be passed on to her children. This theory, which contradicts classical genetics, originates from an experiment conducted by human geneticists from Tufts University, who published their results in the Journal of Neuroscience. Female mice were observed to not only pass on a genetic defect to their offspring, but also their experiences. The researchers concluded that there is genetic information that is independent of the actual DNA code and that only becomes evident in one’s life due to environmental influences.

The US researchers used female mice who had bad memory due to a genetic disorder. An electric shock would be administered to the mice and then their behavior was observed. Unlike the healthy mice, the unhealthy mice showed no fear of the position where the electric shock was administered. However, this memory deficiency healed completely if the mice were placed in an environment full of colourful toys, a lot of movement, and in the company of other mice for two weeks immediately after birth. This stimulation of the memory also normalized the activity in the affected brain region for more than three months. This is when the treated, now adult mice had their first litter. Although the young animals had the same genetic defect as their mothers and were separated from their mother immediately after birth, the therapy also had an effect on them. Their memory was normal for more than a month – which confirmed the transfer from the mother to its offspring.

(1) * Source: Specification and epigenetic programming of the human germ line

  • Nature Reviews Genetics17, 585–600 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nrg.2016.88
  • Published online: 30 August 2016

Abstract: Primordial germ cells (PGCs), the precursors of sperm and eggs, are established in perigastrulation-stage embryos in mammals. Signals from extra-embryonic tissues induce a unique gene regulatory network in germline-competent cells for PGC specification. This network also initiates comprehensive epigenome resetting, including global DNA demethylation and chromatin reorganization. Mouse germline development has been studied extensively, but the extent to which such knowledge applies to humans was unclear. Here, we review the latest advances in human PGC specification and epigenetic reprogramming. The overall developmental dynamics of human and mouse germline cells appear to be similar, but there are crucial mechanistic differences in PGC specification, reflecting divergence in the regulation of pluripotency and early development.

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