DNA SIG 16 Sept Guest Speaker

12th September 2023
By Michele Rainger
We welcome Dr Rachel Woodhouse to talk about Epigenetics – Inheritance outside DNA

Epigenetics - inheritance outside of DNA

Major lifetime experiences of parents and grandparents can have biological effects on their children and grandchildren, without changing anyone's DNA. For example, there is double the risk of death from heart disease for the children and grandchildren of people who suffered famine in their slow-growth phase (when aged 8-15 years) and there are higher rates of diabetes and obesity in people whose grandfathers experienced food oversupply in their slow-growth period.

And it’s not just about eating. Researchers in Bristol found that boys whose fathers smoked early in life were prone to obesity – the later the age of commencing smoking in the father the lower the change of obesity in the son. Yet the effect wasn’t present in girls whose parents smoked. Another example is the children of Holocaust survivors, who have altered stress hormones, and a greater chance of developing insulin-dependent diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

 All of these examples are independent of whether the child was raised by the parents, adopted or didn’t even know who their parents and grandparents were. They had inherited the lingering effects of the biological experiences of their parents, without altering their DNA.

How are these effects inherited from one generation to the next? Epigenetics is the science of how environment, exposures, and experiences can cause changes to the ways your genes and cells work, without changing the sequence of the DNA itself. There is growing evidence that epigenetic changes can affect not only the exposed individual, but also their future generations. We are still learning about this comparatively new science.

The presentation will be given by Dr Rachel Woodhouse of the Australian National University, who is an expert on trans-generational epigenetic inheritance. Dr Woodhouse will speak about the evidence for epigenetic inheritance using real-life examples, what kinds of things are likely to be inheritable epigenetically, what epigenetics is, how it might work and how she studies this in the laboratory.

This meeting is only open to members of Family History ACT.  If you’re a member of FHACT, it is free to join us to learn a little about epigenetics. Remember to log onto our website to reserve you place.

DNA Special Interest Group:  Saturday 16 September 2pm




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