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Transgenerational Epigenetics: We Are More Complicated Than the Genes We Inherit

If genetics is the screenplay for a film, epigenetics is the film’s director. Genetics (the script) is typed and printed. But epigenetics (the director) makes adjustments during filming — highlighting key scenes, underemphasizing others. Amazingly, research suggests that later copies of the scripts (our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren) carry with them traces of our director’s notes. This is called transgenerational epigenetics.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute’s (PNRI) Nadeau Lab have discovered that when mice are exposed to long-term high-fat diets, epigenetic changes inherited as far as four generations back can protect them from obesity. Discoveries like these could lead to treatments that protect future generations from diseases caused by our Western diet and lifestyle — opening doors to a healthier tomorrow.

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