Tagged With epigenetics

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Our families pass on pieces of themselves to us in more than one way. Your eye colour may be thanks to genetic inheritance, but not everything we inherit is encoded in the letters of our DNA. An affinity for Russian literature might be something your parents passed on via social influence, reading it to you before bedtime, just as their parents did for them. Life experiences such as trauma, researchers have recently found, can be passed on, too. Children can inherit the changes that occur in how their parents genes are expressed due to environmental stressors.

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In what sounds like a plot line from a BioShock game, a team of biologists has coaxed an animal into growing a new head and brain resembling those of a different species. The bizarre accomplishment adds to a growing body of research highlighting the importance of non-DNA factors — collectively known as the 'epigenome' — in determining the most fundamental aspects of an organism's anatomy.

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There are 20,000 genes in the human genome, but only a small fraction of them are active in any given cell. This video from Nature explains with beautiful clarity the system that activity, turning genes on and off. It's called the epigenome, and it's incredibly important. Now you can understand how it works too.