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Genetically Speaking, You’re More Like Your Dad
By Carl Engelking | March 3, 2015 1:08 pm
You may have inherited your mother’s eyes, but, genetically speaking, you use more DNA passed down from your father. That’s the conclusion of a new study on mice that researchers say likely applies to all mammals.
We humans get one copy of each gene from mom and one from dad (ignoring those pesky sex chromosomes) – that hasn’t changed. The same is true for all mammals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that mom and dad genes are equally active in creating who we are.
Researchers now report that thousands of mouse genes show parent-specific effects, and that on balance, the scales are tipped in favor of dads. Studying whether this imbalance exists in humans could give scientists insights into the causes of inherited conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Of Mice and Men
Humans, mice and many other animals shared a common ancestor some 80 million years ago; therefore, our set of genes are highly alike. Further, when mice pass their genetic material down to their offspring, the manner in which genes are turned on or off is also similar to humans.
The study looks at gene expression – that is, genes’ level of activity in producing RNA, which is the molecule that then goes on to create proteins and basically make the body function. In this study, scientists worked with a population of mice called the Collaborative Cross, which is the most genetically diverse population of mice in the world. These mice were specifically bred to mimic the genetic diversity found in human populations.
Scientists interbred three strains of these mice to create nine different types of offspring. When these mice reached adulthood, scientists measured the level of gene expression in a variety of bodily tissues. They then quantified how much gene expression was derived from the mother and the father for every single gene in the genome.
Overall, they found that most genes showed parent-of-origin effects in their levels of expression, and that paternal genes consistently won out. For up to 60 percent of the mouse’s genes, the copy from dad was more active than the copy from mom. This imbalance resulted in mice babies whose brains were significantly more like dad’s, genetically speaking.
The researchers believe the same is likely true in all mammals. “We now know that mammals express more genetic variance from the father,” says Pardo-Manuel de Villena. “So imagine that a certain kind of mutation is bad. If inherited from the mother, the gene wouldn’t be expressed as much as it would be if it were inherited from the father. So, the same bad mutation would have different consequences in disease if it were inherited from the mother or from the father.”
The findings, which were published this week in Nature Genetics, add a new wrinkle into our understanding of inherited diseases. Knowing an imbalance exists in how your parents’ genes affect you could help scientists treat and predict diseases more accurately.
So, dads, next time you’re showing off those baby pictures, go ahead and boast: the little one does take after you.
Photo credit: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock; DNA strand: watchara/Shutterstock;
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health, genetics
Last month we ran a four-part series about the origins and downsides of overprotective parenting and how to raise more independent kids. My guest on the podcast today was a key resource in that series and has been at the forefront of battling helicopter parenting for nearly a decade. Her name is Lenore Skenazy and she’s the author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).
Today on the show, Lenore and I discuss how being labeled “America’s Worst Mom” led her to become a leader of a movement to give kids more unsupervised time, the cultural shifts that have happened in the past 30 years that have resulted in overprotective parenting, and why, contrary to popular belief, the chance of your kid getting abducted by a stranger is actually incredibly small. Along the way, Lenore shares some crazy stories of parents getting in trouble with the law simply for letting their children play outside by themselves.
We end our conversation with some actionable steps you can take as a parent to raise independent, self-reliant kids and why it’s important for them to have as much unsupervised play as possible.
If you’re a parent or a parent-to-be, you don’t want to miss this hilarious, but informative episode.
- The origins of the Free Range Kids movement
- Why people were so upset about Lenore letting her 9-year-old ride the subway alone
- The differences in parenting from a generation ago to today
- The “question” that Lenore despises every time she gets interviewed
- The perils of “Worst-First” thinking
- The miasma of fear that parents are breathing in every day
- Is this fear uniquely American?
- What are the actual odds of your child being abducted?
- The illusion of control that parents hang on to
- The data-fication of today’s children
- Why parents need to cut themselves more slack
- The impact of smartphones on modern parenting
- The societal impetus that encourages parents to call 911 when they see unsupervised kids
- Moral vs rational judgments in parents
- How kids are losing their imagination in this overprotective world
- The dangers of kids not being exposed to risk
- Ideas for how parents can balance risk and safety in raising their kids
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
If there are kids in your life, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Free-Range Kids. Lenore does a bang-up job debunking the myths out there about child safety. Plus, she’s dang funny. There were several times while reading the book that I literally lol-ed.
Connect With Lenore Skenazy
Lenore on Twitter
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