How your behaviour can change your children’s DNA

New research into inheritance shows we can alter family traits for better or for worse. Jonathan Leake reports.

Read more at The Sunday Times

Rewriting Darwin: The New Non-Genetic Inheritance

Half a century before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck outlined his own theory of evolution. A cornerstone of this was the idea that characteristics acquired during an individual’s lifetime can be passed on to their offspring. In its day, Lamarck’s theory was generally ignored or lampooned. Then came Darwin, and Gregor Mendel’s discovery of genetics. In recent years, ideas along the lines of Richard Dawkins’s concept of the “selfish gene” have come to dominate discussions about heritability, and with the exception of a brief surge of interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “Lamarckism” has long been consigned to the theory junkyard.

Read more in New Scientist.

2nd genetic code could provide clues to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder

New Canadian research suggests chemical changes to genes may trigger the altered brain functions resulting in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a finding that may lead to better understanding and treatment of the conditions.

“The DNA sequence of genes for someone with an illness like schizophrenia and for someone without a mental illness often look the same; there are no visible changes that explain the cause of a disease,” Dr. Arturas Petronis, a senior scientist at Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said in a release.

“But we now have tools that show us changes in the second code, the epigenetic code.”

Read more in CBCNews.

Scientists solve a psychiatric mystery

A second genetic code that turns our genes on and off works differently in people who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Canadian researchers have discovered.

The finding helps explain a mystery that has puzzled psychiatrists for 50 years. Why, when one identical twin has schizophrenia, does the other have only a 40- to 60-per-cent chance of developing the severe mental illness?

One theory – from the emerging field of epigenetics – is that while their genes are virtually identical, the switches that control them are different. The result is too little or too much of the proteins that make up the brain and keep it running.

Read more in The Globe and Mail.