Babies Do Not Start From Scratch. Sperm And Eggs Carry Genetic Experiences Well Before Conception

August 19, 2014

There's now overwhelming evidence that parents' habits, whether good or bad, can be passed on to their children genetically, according to Australian researchers.

Image credit: Anna Lee Media

Environmental factors and parents' health before conception have more influence on a child's future than previously thought, a paper published last week in Science by researchers from the University of Adelaide has found.

The authors conclude that sperm and eggs carry more than just genes - they are also coded with genetic memories that can affect the health of an embryo.

"Many things we do in the lead up to conceiving is having an impact on the future development of the child - from the age of the parents, to poor diet, obesity, smoking and many other factors, all of which influence environmental signals transmitted into the embryo," Sarah Robertson, an author of the paper and Director of the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute, said in a press release.

"People used to think that it didn't matter, because a child represented a new beginning, with a fresh start. The reality is, we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn't quite start from scratch - they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents' experiences that can shape development in the fetus and after birth.

Although, she stresses in an interview with  The Advertiser, genes are still the primary blueprint for a new child. "But this is at another level, it is the decoration of the gene, the icing on the cake if you like, a gift to offspring that gives them another layer of information about survival."

Via Science Alert

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