Despite DNA being unaffected by events, there is mounting evidence which suggests that what happens during our lives will affect what genes are switched on and which lie dormant.
Eva Jablonka and Gal Raz, from Tel Aviv University in Israel, have documented over 100 cases of what is known as ‘hereditary epigenetics’ in animals and plants.
The term ‘hereditary epigenetics’ describes a process which see’s gene switches being passed on through generations
The process in which genes are switched off or on is called DNA methylation and involves methyl molecules attaching themselves to parts of the genome.
Scientists believe that traumatic events can alter an individuals DNA methylation, and further studies have suggested these changes could be carried down the generations with plenty of examples being found in the animal kingdom.
One relevant study saw generations of sick rats born after just one rat was exposed to a chemical which changed reproductive hormones.
Another saw male mice which were removed from their mothers for the first two weeks of life, become depressed. Their own offspring also exhibited symptoms of depression even though they themselves received normal levels of maternal care.
Researchers from the university of Zurich believe that certain genes in the father mice were not switched on because they were mistreated while young, and that these faults got passed to their offspring.
Scientists now believe that a similar process can occur in humans.
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