Cellular Healing of Inherited Trauma

SAND Image

Our life experiences may be passed on to our children and our children’s children through our genes. The open question is, can we make a difference? Will healing our own traumas prevent them being delivered at the baby carriage of our grandchildren? Scientists are now revealing that they have discovered how this genetic inheritance can be turned on or off. The good news: healing personal trauma will make a huge difference to future generations.

According to epigenetics—the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA—our life experiences may be passed on to our children and our children’s children. Studies on survivors of traumatic events have suggested that exposure to stress may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations. But how exactly are these genetic “memories” passed on?

A new Tel Aviv University study pinpoints the precise mechanism that turns the inheritance of environmental influences “on” and “off.” The research, published last week in Cell and led by Dr. Oded Rechavi and his group from TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, reveals the rules that dictate which epigenetic responses will be inherited, and for how long.

“Until now, it has been assumed that a passive dilution or decay governs the inheritance of epigenetic responses,” Dr. Rechavi said. “But we showed that there is an active process that regulates epigenetic inheritance down through generations.”

Passing stress from one generation to the next

Researchers have been preoccupied with how the effects of stress, trauma, and other environmental exposures are passed from one generation to the next for years. Small RNA molecules—short sequences of RNA that regulate the expression of genes—are among the key factors involved in mediating this kind of inheritance. Dr. Rechavi and his team had previously identified a “small RNA inheritance” mechanism through which RNA molecules produced a response to the needs of specific cells and how they were regulated between generations.

“We previously showed that worms inherited small RNAs following the starvation and viral infections of their parents. These small RNAs helped prepare their offspring for similar hardships,” Dr. Rechavi said. “We also identified a mechanism that amplified heritable small RNAs across generations, so the response was not diluted. We found that enzymes called RdRPs are required for re-creating new small RNAs to keep the response going in subsequent generations.”

Most inheritable epigenetic responses in C.elegans worms were found to persist for only a few generations. This created the assumption that epigenetic effects simply “petered out” over time, through a process of dilution or decay.

“But this assumption ignored the possibility that this process doesn’t simply die out but is regulated instead,” said Dr. Rechavi, who in this study treated C.elegans worms with small RNAs that target the GFP (green fluorescent protein), a reporter gene commonly used in experiments. “By following heritable small RNAs that regulated GFP—that ‘silenced’ its expression—we revealed an active, tuneable inheritance mechanism that can be turned ‘on’ or ‘off.’”

The scientists discovered that specific genes, which they named “MOTEK” (Modified Transgenerational Epigenetic Kinetics), were involved in turning on and off epigenetic transmissions.

“We discovered how to manipulate the transgenerational duration of epigenetic inheritance in worms by switching ‘on’ and ‘off’ the small RNAs that worms use to regulate genes,” said Dr. Rechavi. “These switches are controlled by a feedback interaction between gene-regulating small RNAs, which are inheritable, and the MOTEK genes that are required to produce and transmit these small RNAs across generations.

“The feedback determines whether epigenetic memory will continue to the progeny or not, and how long each epigenetic response will last.”

A comprehensive theory of heredity?

Although their research was conducted on worms, the team believes that understanding the principles that control the inheritance of epigenetic information is crucial for constructing a comprehensive theory of heredity for all organisms, humans included.

“We are now planning to study the MOTEK genes to know exactly how these genes affect the duration of epigenetic effects,” said Leah Houri-Zeevi, a PhD student in Dr. Rechavi’s lab and first author of the paper. “Moreover, we are planning to examine whether similar mechanisms exist in humans.”

Source

You might also enjoy: The Breadcrumb Trail of Inherited Family Trauma

Total
0
Shares

The Light Eaters: Zoë Schlanger

Article by

At the edges of plant consciousness and the more-than-human in Schlanger new book

New Paradigm of Animal Consciousness

Article by

Far more animals than previously thought likely have consciousness, top scientists say in a new declaration — including fish, lobsters and octopus

Indigenous Knowledge & Climate Crisis: Nonette Royo

Article by

Robust Indigenous and local land rights are vital for managing forests, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving biodiversity, and improving livelihoods

Indigenous Solar Eclipse Stories From Across Turtle Island

Article by

From rodents of unusual size to flaming arrows, communities across North America share solar eclipse traditions

Chasing Cicadas

Article by

Amid the cacophony of a cicada emergence, Anisa George reflects on her choice to leave the Bahá’í faith and its promise of a new civilization

The Possibilities of Regeneration

Video with

Origins of regenerative agriculture, offering a story that is both new and ancient in its roots

Ghost Pipe, Illness, and Mycoheterotrophy

Article by

No matter how sick I feel, I’m still afire with a need to do something for my living

Listening to Stones: Little Bear

Article by

Little Bear believes there is an unspoken language that makes it possible to bridge every worldview

Support SAND with a Donation

Science and Nonduality is a nonprofit organization. Your donation goes towards the development of our vision and the growth of our community.
Thank you for your support!