How do parents influence new genetic mutations in children?

A new study has investigated how mothers and fathers cause new genetic mutations in their children, and how some of these mutations may lead to negative outcomes.

Characteristics that we inherit from our parents – starting with very basic features such as eye color or hair texture – shape not just our identity, but also the state of our health, both earlier and later in life.

That being the case, the study of genetics has become central to understanding who and what we are, as well as how our bodies are likely to develop in time, and how we might respond to internal or external factors.

For instance, recent studies have revealed the importance of genetic factors to conditions including Alzheimer’s diseasebrain cancer, and diabetes.

Given the importance of understanding the role of genetic factors to our health profile, scientists are constantly striving to decipher the mysteries of the human genome.

A new study conducted by researchers at deCODE genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland, has revealed that the parents’ age at the time of conception influences de novo mutations (DNMs) in children – that is, genetic changes that are seen in the offspring, but not in their parents.

Senior study author Dr. Kári Stefánsson, the chief executive officer of deCODE genetics, told Medical News Today that this research is very important to understanding how and why rare childhood diseases occur.

“Now […] it is clear,” he said, “that DNMs are responsible for a very large percentage of rare diseases of childhood. So it’s extraordinarily important from a clinical point of view to understand the way in which DNMs are generated, to understand whether they are coming from the mother or father, how they are when they come from one but not the other.”

The researchers’ findings were published yesterday in the journal Nature and are available online.
By Maria Cohut
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