Individual symptoms, such as anxiety, avoidance and a heightened response to stress, can be transmitted from mother to child and even grandchildren by multiple nongenetic mechanisms, a new study by investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine and other institutions shows. The pre-clinical findings, published May 13 in Nature Communications, may lead to tools to predict if a child is at risk of developing behavioral problems later in life after exposure to stress signals in the womb.
“Genetic and nongenetic inheritance are different but complementary mechanisms to pass information from one generation to the next,” said senior author Dr. Miklos Toth, a professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It will be necessary to develop tools to determine if the familial occurrence of a disease is based on a nongenetic, as opposed to genetic, mechanism. On a positive note, nongenetic, in contrast to genetic, inheritance of disease is not inevitable and, if recognized in time, may be prevented.”
– Jamie Kass