Exposure to stress before birth can cause genetic changes in offspring

Washington: A new study on rats has found that a female`s exposure to distress even before she conceives causes changes in the expression of a gene linked to the stress mechanism in the body - in the ovum and later in the brains of the offspring.

"The systemic similarity in many instances between us and mice raises questions about the transgenerational influences in humans as well, for example, the effects of the Second Lebanon War or the security situation in the South on the children of those who went through those difficult experiences," the researchers at the University of Haifa said.

"If until now we saw evidence only of behavioral effects, now we`ve found proof of effects at the genetic level," they said.

In previous studies in Prof. Micah Leshem`s lab, it was found that exposing rats to stress before they had even conceived (and even at their "teen" stage) influences the behavior of their offspring.

The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.


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