Environment Interacts With Genes In Autism, Twin Study Shows

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) – Scientists have found patterns of change in gene activity involved in autism in a study that shed light on how environmental factors can work to turn certain genes on or off and contribute to the development of the brain disorder.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers analysed data from 50 sets of twins to try to find out what might have caused some of them to develop autism while their genetically identical siblings did not.

Read more at Huffington Post.

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.

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

Linking genes, cerebellums and schizophrenia

Stress or diet may suppress growth of the brain’s cerebellum in the womb. Researchers claim this could later contribute to schizophrenia, as people with the mental illness sometimes have abnormally small cerebellums.

Read more in New Scientist.

Epigenetic clue to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Twin studies have shown that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have changes in gene activity caused by their environment. The finding provides the strongest evidence yet that such gene changes might cause the conditions.

Read more in New Scientist.

The First 1000 Days: A Legacy for Life

Imagine if your health as an adult is partly determined by the nutrition and environment you were exposed to in the first 1000 days of life. Or even further back; that the lifestyle of your grandparents during their children’s first 1000 days, has programmed your adult health. A strong body of scientific evidence supports this explosive idea, and is gradually turning medical thinking on its head. To understand the cause of chronic adult disease, including ageing, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and lung problems we need to look much further back than adult lifestyle – but to the first 1000 days.

Learn more at BBC Radio 4.


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.

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.