We all have a unique genetic code that gets passed down to the next generation.
Our genetic sequence affects everything from eye color to body shape to intelligence in our children. Because there are only so many combinations of traits with a partner, there are some genes we can be sure we'll pass on, and some that we can hope wind up as part of our offspring's DNA.
The study of epigenetics, however, aims to understand the inherited traits that can't quite be explained by simple DNA sequencing, and it's completely fascinating.
One common example of epigenetic research focuses on the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Descendants of Holocaust survivors have different levels of stress hormones, and it may make them prone to anxiety disorders. This suggests intergenerational trauma can be passed down and affect people who haven't even experienced that trauma themselves.
These genetic changes may indicate the body trying to adapt to a similar environment as their parents. Because genetics is a complicated science, these traits can seem to "skip" generations. For instance, food availability and gender can impact grandchildren whose genetic codes have adapted to allow for food scarcity or unavailability.
Scientists stress that they are just beginning to understand the effects of epigenetics and that trying to create real-world results from this data is a far-off dream.
“If you are looking for it all to be logical and fall into place perfectly, it isn't going to yet,” Rachel Yehuda, an epigenetics researcher says.
(via Scientific American)