Managing your stress levels so that you can get more out of life is one thing, but keeping those hormones on an even keel for the sake of your children, is another. A new study has sadly demonstrated that we can indeed pass stress on to our kids. However, if we can get to the root of why it happens, we may be able to prevent it.
By examining the genetics of C.elegans worms, researchers at a Tel Aviv University, lead by Dr. Oded Rechavi were able to explore whether or not certain epigenetic responses would be inherited by offspring. Epigenetics is a fancy word for the study of how environmental and external factors may affect and change how certain genes are expressed and passed on. An example of this would be a child who is predisposed to addiction even though they never would have experienced the actual environmental factors that lead to the parent’s addiction first hand. Another example would be the passing on of obesity, wherein the parent’s genetics would have been altered due to the environmental factors of over-eating and then passed down to later generations.
Apparently – excuse us while we get a little scientific here – they were able to locate the neural mechanism which regulates these kinds of genetic memories by turning them on or off. Speaking to Tel Aviv University American Friends News, Dr Rechavi explains that the idea that these genetics effects would simply ‘peter out’ over time and be diluted down through generations is far from true. In reality, his research shows that a ‘small RNA inheritance’ is crucial to the ‘active process that regulates epigenetic inheritance.
He explains, “these switches are controlled by a feedback interaction between gene-regulating small RNAs, which are inheritable, and the MOTEK genes that are required to produce and transmit these small RNAs across generations. The feedback determines whether epigenetic memory will continue to the progeny or not, and how long each epigenetic response will last.”
Though the researchers explain that they’ve a long way to before they can prevent this from happening, it’s certainly provided us with more reasons to get a handle on your own stress and anxiety levels, and more reason to blame our parents for our own issues. No not really, they gave us life.