Males who develop diabetic tendencies by eating too much can pass on an increased susceptibility for the disease to offspring through changes that occur in their sperm. In research published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Chinese scientists examined whether overfed male mice could, along with their DNA, also pass on chemically tagged genes to the next generation.
There has been growing interest in epigenetics, which deals with how traits change without alterations to genes encoded in the DNA. The tagging of genes with a methyl group (-CH3), is one way that traits are modified. Such methylation typically reduces the amount of protein that cells produce from a tagged gene.
Human studies and animal experiments have indicated that parental diet can act through epigenetic mechanisms and affect their offspring’s disease risk. A trait acquired by a father could be transmitted to the next generation through changes in the methylation of sperm DNA. These findings may have implications in explaining the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic metabolic diseases.
(Credit – The Hindu]