Holocaust survivors trauma passed on to children's genes
Yehuda and her colleagues focused on what is referred to as "epigenetic inheritance" -- the idea that environmental factors can affect the genetics of future offspring. Yehuda's team specifically examined one region of a gene linked to the regulation of stress hormones, which are known to be affected by traumatic experiences.
The team measured cytosine methylation in the gene FKBP5, learning that "the gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents," as Yehuda said to British newspaper the Guardian. "The same correlation was not found in any of the control group and their children. To our knowledge, this provides the first demonstration of transmission of pre-conception stress effects resulting in epigenetic changes in both the exposed parents and their offspring," Yehuda said. "It makes sense to look at this gene, because if trauma does pass onto our offspring, it will be through stress-related hormones. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about how we adapt to our environment and how we might pass it on," she added.