About Fathers

Many geneticists now think that the behavior of our genes can be altered by experience.

fatherThe influence of genes

New research reveals that you could be getting, not so much the right genes, but ‘retro-genes’ from your Olympic tennis champion father. That is a very significant finding, because mother’s influence through the egg cell and the womb, has long been recognized as an important part of the environmental (non-genetic) input for development, while the father was supposed to contribute nothing before birth except his genes. Now, it appears that the father’s experience, too, could result in ‘retro-genes’ that might be passed on via the sperm. 

The experience of young boys could affect not just their own health in later life, but also the health of their sons and grandsons. The UK research team led by Marcus Pembrey at the Institute of Child Health, University College London published their findings in 2006 in the European Journal of Human Genetics [1], accompanied by a News and Commentary piece, “Sins of the fathers, and their fathers” [2].

Two years later, a long feature article, “What genes remember”, in Prospect Magazine stated [3]: “Many geneticists now think that the behavior of our genes can be altered by experience – and even that these changes can be passed on to future generations. This finding may transform our understanding of inheritance and evolution.”

The significance of the finding is that it departs from well-known and generally accepted environmental effects on the unborn fetus in mother’s womb or other maternal effects, mediated by the many provisions in the egg cell during embryogenesis, and after birth, in mother’s milk.

In contrast, effects passed on through the paternal line are associated with sperm cells that contain very little apart from the father’s genes.

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