Parents’ Bad Diets May Mess With Genes, Boost Kids’ Risk of Obesity, Diabetes

A crummy diet can obviously have a lasting impact on the waistline—but for parents, it may also have a lasting impact on DNA and the family line, a new study suggests.

Source: Parents’ bad diets may mess with genes, boost kids’ risk of obesity, diabetes

It’d be interesting to test if the epigenetic changes are permanent, or if they can be reversed by the fat mouse loosing weight.

This Video Explains How Stress Breaks Down Your Brain

If you think there’s a possibility of Alzheimer’s for you, please make sure you make plans with regard to health, etc. before things get bad and you can’t make those decisions anymore. Things easily become a big mess in those situations.

Lead Exposure in Mothers can Affect Future Generations

A human girl develops their eggs while in the womb. A mother not only holds her daughter but the eggs of her grandchildren…

A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren. Their study, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.

Source: Lead exposure in mothers can affect future generations

Lead-based paint and leaded gasoline weren’t banned until the late 1980s and still pose a significant health risk to many vulnerable populations (e.g. young children). Interestingly, leaded gasoline was actually phased out because it was causing the newly invented catalytic converters to get clogged. It wasn’t until after leaded gasoline was banned that people made the connection between high blood lead levels and leaded gasoline use.

Lead mostly poses a health risk to minorities and low-income residents though. Areas where homes are still coated with untreated lead-based paint that has now began to peel off and contaminate the soil. Children that are crawling on the floor/ground will get lead on their hands and later put their fingers in their mouths–this is the most common way.

Lead poses a unique risk to women (and children) due to the fact that lead is stored in the bones. During pregnancy, lead becomes agitated and will re-enter the bloodstream and be passed on to the child.

Today, researchers still have not found a toxicity threshold for lead, which essentially means that any amount of lead will have adverse health effects. Low-level lead poisoning negatively effects cognitive functioning and can cause individuals to exhibit lower IQs.

Bonus Time!

The Thrifty Phenotype (AKA Barker Hypothesis) – intergenerational disease risk in an elegant little bundle. First documented in Dutch children born in times of famine during WWII I think it was, but recognized all over now.  You could use known week of conception and a chart showing just when citrus became hard to come by in a given region to predict weight or head-to-waist circumference ratio at birth. And while that’s cool on its own, you could also use similar info to predict an individual’s risk for heart disease or or diabetes in adulthood.

Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle Up.

They were worried about what people called “recombinant DNA,” the manipulation of the source code of life. It had been just 22 years since James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Franklin described what DNA was—deoxyribonucleic acid, four different structures called bases stuck to a backbone of sugar and phosphate, in sequences thousands of bases long. DNA is what genes are made of, and genes are the basis of heredity.

Preeminent genetic researchers like David Baltimore, then at MIT, went to Asilomar to grapple with the implications of being able to decrypt and reorder genes. It was a God-like power—to plug genes from one living thing into another. Used wisely, it had the potential to save millions of lives. But the scientists also knew their creations might slip out of their control. They wanted to consider what ought to be off-limits.

I highly recommend reading if you’re at all interested in editing DNA to see the history of how the current tools have come forward, and why the power to do so should not be taken lightly.

Exercise Changes the Expression of Your DNA

We all know that exercise can make us fitter and reduce our risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But just how, from start to finish, a run or a bike ride might translate into a healthier life has remained baffling.

Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness.

Source: How Exercise Changes Our DNA

We know that exercise has an effect on the body, just as we know that exercising increases concentrations of growth hormones, anti-inflammatory responses, and metabolic rate adjusting factors. We also know these adjustments are made through methylation patterns over enhancers/promoters…

Methylation covalently (stably) alters DNA. Effectively creating a different nucleotide, one that is recognized by the cell as different from the original. This could result in germ cell (ie, heritable) changes.  There is no data to suggest that this particular set of methylation events has anything to do with reproduction or reproductive fitness, but mechanically – it’s possible.

The adjustments made to the exercised cells are reactive to the exercise, rather than proactive as the summary suggests.

Getting Closer to Telling Genetic Twins Apart

The other one is prettier 😉

They’re called identical twins because their genomes are identical. But even though all of their DNA is the same, they clearly are not. The environment must play a role in how identical twins—and everyone else—uses their genes to become who they are.

Until recently, laboratory techniques have not been sensitive enough to detect how, and to what extent, environmental effects dictate the activity of genes. Now that we have the ability to do so, studies are examining variations in the activity of genes in identical twins to try to start unraveling the relative contributions of genetic and environmental effects.

Source: Finding gene activity differences in identical twins

The term “environmental” can be misleading. When most think of the term, the assumed context is what a person is exposed to after birth. But many of those environmental influences can occur during development before birth.  Fetal alcohol syndrome, thalidomide…  Something as simple as the relative diameter of the umbilical cord can have an influence on the concentration of chemicals needed for gene expression/methylation during important periods of prenatal development.

The author states: “…differences in expression between them can’t be explained by genetic sequences and must be due to environmental factors”. This used to be the working theory. In other words, it was fairly plausible that since twins are genetic clones, yet they often look different, it is most likely environmental factors that play a role in these differences.

In some cases, that is true. Epigenetics that has shown that a twin separated and raised under different conditions can have different protein expression. However, in the case of this paper, it might just be early stochastic noise.

In a cell, the way everything generally works is you have certain concentrations of proteins and other miscellaneous molecules.  There is a certain level of “noise” – meaning collisions occur, and increase/decrease based on concentrations. By statistical random chance – “stochastic noise” – in early cellular development, you can get a higher level of protein concentration than in another cell at the same stage of development. In that moment it may not seem like much, but studies have shown these small and/or early changes to have very serious implications to cellular function once the cell has fully developed.

TLDR: We have found that early stochastic noise in a cell can have very different outcomes as the future plays out.