Twins genetics, environment linked

Posted: July 17, 2012 at 6:16 am

A new study has revealed that environmental factors play a vital role in forming the newborn epigenetic profile with consequences that can last a lifetime.

An international team of researchers analyzed a number of twin pairs, both identical and fraternal, who are ideal for epigenetic study as they share the same mother but have their own umbilical cord and amniotic sac, and in the case of identical twins, also share the same genetic make-up.

Experimental studies on animal models have demonstrated that the environment shapes the epigenetic profile across the genome, called the epigenome, particularly in the womb. The research also has indicated that even in identical twins, there are widespread differences in the epigenetic profile of twins at birth.

"This must be due to events that happened to one twin and not the other," said senior author of the report Dr. Jeffrey Craig of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia.

Although twins share a womb, the influence of specific tissues like the placenta and umbilical cord can be different for each fetus, and likely affects the epigenetic profile, Craig added.

The recent findings suggest the unique environmental experiences in the womb may have a more profound effect on epigenetic factors that influence health throughout life than previously thought, researchers concluded.


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Twins genetics, environment linked

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