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Study Suggests that Fathers Pass More Than Just Genes

Update Date: Dec 08, 2015 01:28 PM EST

The scientists are currently examining a debatable hypothesis that a man's own experiences can modify the sperm which in turn affects his children too. This idea is opposed to the regular premise that explains heredity, that parents only transfer their genes to the children. As children inherit their parent's genes, they are predisposed to stress, obesity, anxiety and even cancer, or not. It is believed that the parent's obesity or anxiety doesn't modify these genes. However, animal experiments in recent years have challenged the conventional thinking, suggesting that there may be other factors involved, reports Business Standard.

In a study conducted in 2010, Dr. Romain Barres from the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues gave sample of rats a high-fat diet and another group a regular diet. These rats were then mated with female rats. The rats that fed on high-fat diet gave offerings that were naturally predisposed to gain weight and had a hard time keeping their insulin levels in check. High-fat foods are just one of the many things that can alter an offspring. Another one is stress. Male rates were when exposed to stressful conditions, fathered offspring that didn't respond well to stress.

The scientists are studying the sperm to explain the connection between a father's experience and biology of their offspring. Even though the DNA is delivered to an egg through a sperm cell, the genes are regulated by several molecules, also known as epigenetic factors. It is these molecules that react to the environment by suppressing some genes while activating the other genes as required. There have been studies that suggest that the epigenetic factors can be passed on to an offspring through a sperm, as reported by New York Times.

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