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Great-grandpa’s genes gone, effects stay

Removing anti-obesity DNA from a mouse lineage doesn’t stop descendants from staying thin

VANCOUVER — Great-grandfathers may impart more than engraved watches. A sugar-regulating gene that made a brief appearance in a lineage of mice but wasn’t passed on seems to have made animals up to four generations later resistant to obesity, research presented March 30 at the annual conference on Research in Computational Molecular Biology shows.

“This changes the way we think about the inheritance of disease,” said study coauthor Joseph Nadeau of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. The results may force researchers to grapple with complicated transgenerational gene influences.

The surprising effect was caused by the single-generation appearance of a genetic variation that affects the maintenance of blood sugar, Nadeau and his colleagues reported.

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