Loving parents can `switch off` risky genes

Melbourne: A new research has suggested that parenting could help protect babies from dangerous genes.

Australian scientists, who have recorded widespread changes in switches controlling gene activity in twins they studied from birth to 18 months old, noted that a healthy diet, loving parents and appropriate stimulation could "switch off" genes that present a risk of physical and mental illness.

It`s the first 1000 days that matter most, the scientists stated, according to News.com.au.

In a phenomenon known as epigenetics, these switches are thought to control healthy development, but can be changed by environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle and toxic chemicals.

Surprisingly, the scientists found some twins can become more epigenetically similar over time.

They believe this could be because they might have been in different sacs in the womb and then experience the same home environment.

Their research published in the journal Genome Biology demonstrted gene switches change rapidly after birth.

"The research will help us work out the extent to which early environments can change our genes and how one day we may be able to change them back," said Dr Jeff Craig from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne.

Dr Craig stated that he and colleague Dr Richard Saffery are "asking fundamental questions about what makes us what we are. Are we products of our genetics or are we a product of our environment."

They believe twins are the best group of people to help work this out because identical twins have the same DNA.

If we can find how we are at risk of heart disease, how we are at risk of schizophrenia, we can start understanding those diseases and even start preventing them, Dr Craig asserted.