Story 2014-10-21 2THX Embryos Receive Parent-Specific Layers of Information

Embryos Receive Parent-Specific Layers of Information

by
in science on (#2THX)
story imageFollowing up on last week's article about offspring and mothers' previous sexual partners (in insects, anyway), new research now sheds some additional light on the multi-layered process of how a sperm and egg pass along information needed for successful reproduction.

As described in an article published in the journal PLOS Genetics:
Though one layer is the DNA code that is transferred, the new study identifies information not encoded by DNA, a so-called “epigenetic” layer of information that helps the cell interpret the genetic code.
In insects this additional “epigenetic” layer of information apparently can come from a previous mate. The question if such or similar mechanisms can also exist in higher organisms, e.g. also in humans, might be far fetched, but not that far, that it precludes a more thorough research. Clearly, there are still plenty of unknown factors in human and non-human reproduction: an area ripe for further research.
Reply 14 comments

Not much to debate... (Score: 2, Informative)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 13:40 (#2TJ2)

I believe the only thing "controversial" was that one AC just patently refused to accept that epigenetics exists, and even the most carefully qualified possibility it could possibly affect humans.

It's not too surprising, as it's a new enough field that probably every one of us were taught in school about strict DNA inheritance, with no room for other mechanisms like the emerging field of epigenetics.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/epigenetics.html

Even experts have a hard time accepting it:

"Genetics. It turned out to be more complicated than we thought." --Laura Hercher

"My instinct is deep skepticism" --Kevin Mitchell

https://answersingenesis.org/genetics/epigenetics/epigenetic-changes-let-mice-inherit-their-fathers-fears/

But the fact that humans experience certain epigenetic effects has been rather firmly proven:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics#Epigenetic_effects_in_humans

Re: Not much to debate... (Score: 2, Interesting)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 14:04 (#2TJ4)

I find this very interesting. I wonder when this is commercially used. Gene technology is widely frowned upon. Mostly by people with no sufficient knowledge to be able to have an informed stand is this matter, and mostly for the totally wrong reasons. So, what is epigenetics able to do? Could it be possible to 'gas' seeds with some chemicals and make them this way more resistant against pests? Fine tune the fat/meat ratio in a pig? Without changing the DNA itself? Could be a billion $ market.

Re: Not much to debate... (Score: -1)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-21 16:22 (#2TJD)

He didn't use the word "controversial" so there's no real need to quote it. Boy you're really hung up on convincing people that insect genetics has direct bearing on humans. It's interesting science, but that's all it is.

Re: Not much to debate... (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 16:43 (#2TJE)

Actually I used the word 'controversial'. My story got somewhat improved by the editor (thank you), so it got dropped.

But where do you see that someone want to convince people that insect genetics has direct bearing on
humans? The only thing that was said was: 'A new and unexpected mechanism in the reproduction process
of insects has been discovered. Let's see if it or something similar exists for other species, too'. Epigenetic
effects have already been proven to exist for animals and even humans. Epigenetic effects provide a plausible
mechanism for what was discovered with the insects. So IMHO it is not far fetched to at least look, if something similar
exists outside the insect kingdom, too.

Re: Not much to debate... (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-21 20:08 (#2TJR)

It was a response to evilviper and his or her reference to a prior thread, in which the insect story was very much positioned by one of the scientists as if it had immediate analogs to human reproduction.

Re: Not much to debate... (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 20:12 (#2TJT)

Cut the scientists some slag. They need to convince people to give research funding, who cannot distinguish Harvard from Hogwarts.

Fascinating (Score: 1)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 14:38 (#2TJ8)

I've been paying closer attention to other fields of science recently, and wasn't aware of any of this stuff, so I find it endlessly fascinating. Every generation, I think, is willing to laugh at the false theories that previous generations accepted as fact before eventually finding there was a better explanation, without taking the time to wonder how many of their "facts" will eventually be overturned by future scientists looking for more accurate explanations.

That this stuff is happening - in the USA, at least - despite a culture increasingly hostile to the "educated elite" and whatever other impolite names the likes of Sarah Palin came up with for people who like science - is even more fascinating. Kudos to the boffins!

Re: Fascinating (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 14:48 (#2TJ9)

That this stuff is happening - in the USA, at least - despite a culture increasingly hostile to the "educated elite" and whatever other impolite names the likes of Sarah Palin came up with for people who like science -
Who cares what the Eloi think?
http://s25.postimg.org/yse3ijo4r/b5u8_2l.gif

Re: Fascinating (Score: 1)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 16:55 (#2TJJ)

I had to Google "eloi" and came up with this, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Eloi are one of the two post-human races in H. G. Wells's 1895 novel The Time Machine.
Nice one. Too bad your graphic didn't embed, though. Having run a forum (gotonicaragua.com) that had bots embedding graphic ads into their spam posts, I can see why it isnt permitted though!

Re: Fascinating (Score: 1)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 17:10 (#2TJK)

Oops: internet outage + "click submit again" = dupe comment. Sorry!

Re: Fascinating (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 18:48 (#2TJN)

It's a debate I keep having... Trying to convince people not to too-firmly base their conclusions on some currently accepted theories where the supporting evidence is weak or there are known unresolved problems. Just because nobody has disproven theory X yet, doesn't mean it's a good idea to go out and start bloodletting sick patients...

DNA/genomics was particularly solid, but had some red-flags in the form of obvious outward differences of DNA-identical twins, which epigenetics is now helping to resolve.

http://multiples.about.com/od/funfacts/a/Identical-Twins-And-Dna.htm

I am similarly cautious about theories on dark matter, most conclusions drawn from the rather patchy fossil record, etc.

It's more of a nuisance with nutritional or diet theory-of-the-week, and generally people not well-informed enough to see Dr. Oz and his ilk as the bald-faced lying flim-flam artists they are.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmet_Oz#Scientific_validity

Re: Fascinating (Score: 2, Interesting)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-21 19:46 (#2TJQ)

Trying to convince people not to too-firmly base their conclusions on some currently accepted theories where the supporting evidence is weak or there are known unresolved problems.
Not sure if I agree here. I have quite a good scientific education. However, in 99.99% of all scientific fields I am just layman. All people are. Nowadays nobody can have a complete overview over science. Not even a complete overview in once specific field, e.g. physics. So you have to go with the masses = currently accepted theories. And this is fine as long as one has a base knowledge how science works: You develop a hypothesis. You try to find evidence, which supports your hypothesis. And most importantly you also try to find evidence, which disproves your hypothesis. If something disproves your hypothesis, you drop it immediately, or try to adjust it so that there is no contradiction. This way you can develop your theory. Weak evidence? As long no contradicting evidence not a real problem just a reason for more research. Known unresolved problems? Does not necessarily devalue your theory. Might be that it can be extended. DNA inheritance is not wrong just because there also are epigenetic effects.
I am similarly cautious about theories on dark matter,
I am not. It is the currently accepted theory. It does not contradict anything else I learned. I am not able to disprove it, or do otherwise substantial work on this field. So I accept dark matter as what it currently is: An attempt to explain certain observations. If anyone comes with a better explanation... I'd immediately drop dark matter. Give me enough evidence I'd forgo everything I learned. Give me enough evidence, and I 'believe' in unicorns and magic.

Btw... to be exact: The existence of dark matter is currently no theory, but only a hypothesis. To become a theory it needs evidence for its existence beyond being a pure mathematical trick to explain otherwise unexplainable observed gravitational effects.
Furthermore in science you cannot say 'it is only a theory'. There is nothing 'higher' than a theory in science. Theory of relativity (general or special) I am not sure there is a theory, which has been so thoroughly tested. Probably thousands of experiments, which confirm the theory of relativity. And it is still a theory... an will ever be... unless someone proves it wrong.
It's more of a nuisance with nutritional or diet theory-of-the-week,
Nutritional or diet theory is mostly neither a hypothesis nor a theory.... the best term to describe most of this field is 'religion'.

Re: Fascinating (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-21 20:23 (#2TJV)

Well at least we can all agree about diets then. :)

Over on Metafilter I found out that Steve "Buy My Unnecessary 1992 Disk Repair Program For Your 2 TB SATA Drive Today" Gibson is now pushing a diet based on eating primarily fat and forcing your body into a steady state of ketosis (often a feature of Atkins style protein diets).

I was perfectly fine with Mehmet Oz doing a Dr. Oprah show, until I found out he's also a pusher of reiki and various other nuttery because his wife is into it.

Re: Fascinating (Score: 1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-23 22:07 (#2TNE)

None the biologists I know actually think they have everything figured out about whatever their system is. Real scientific facts from the past remain facts today, but the explanation for how or why were incomplete. Biology is a noisy system with lots of redundancy and the tools to study were and still are imprecise.