Don’t blame your genes…change them!

A family is crowding round the new-born baby; mother is smiling but exhausted. Someone says: ‘He’s got his mum’s eyes.’ another chips in: ‘Look at those legs – he’s going to be a rugby player like his dad.’

As the baby grows, signs of intelligence will be linked to a clever parent or relative; musical or sporting ability likewise. How talented we are, how likely we are to develop diseases such as diabetes or alzheimer’s, even whether we have a sunny or a gloomy nature, are all heavily influenced by our genes.

Or are they? Among the most radical and surprising findings of genetic research is the idea that genes aren’t fixed and set at the moment of conception, like cards in a hand of poker. Instead, most genes come with dimmer switches attached.

Read more at Daily Mail.


Adam Rutherford asks how much of our lives’ experiences, such as diet and pollution, is passed onto our children, as well as our genes. These changes are called epigenetic.

Throughout our lives our genes become changed by the environment – by things such as our diet, radiation, pollution and smoking. These events have consequences for our health. The view from classical genetics was that we don’t pass on any of these defects onto our children. When we reproduce, the genes in our eggs and sperm are wiped clean.

Learn more at BBC Radio 4.

Genes marked by stress make grandchildren mentally ill

A little thing called methylation means that parental neglect, or eating a poor diet, could lead to depression or schizophrenia two generations later

What if your bad habits mean that your children and even their children end up with a psychiatric disorder? That is one of the implications of a study in rodents that suggests poor diet and parental neglect can leave their mark on the genes of your children and your children’s children.

A cryptic epigenetic code added to the DNA of mice shows for the first time that changes in gene activity can pass down three generations. It is likely that the same mechanisms are at work in humans.

Read more in New Scientist.