A breakthrough genetics study published by researchers from the Tel Aviv University may force researchers to reevaluate the validity of the Second Law of Biology. The paper explores how the reaction of a worm to an environmental factor can be passed from one generation to another without modifications at the level of the DNA, confirming previous thoughts about true epigenetic inheritance. Those mechanisms that contribute to the legacy were also investigated.
It is essential to keep in mind the fact that the feat was achieved by observing the nerve cells of worms. It is not known if the same trait is present in mammals, including humans. The implications of the study are quite significant, since they may play a big role in the further understanding of heredity and evolutionary patterns.
One of the researchers who were involved in the study underlined the importance of the nervous system and its remarkable ability to integrate responses and bodily reactions related to physical responses.
Breakthrough genetics discovery made with the help of worms by Israeli scientists
According to the Second Law of Biology (also known as the Weismann barrier), the information inherited by the sperm and egg cells is immune to environmental factors. Mutations are a result of a change in the DNA sequence. The epigenetic modification focuses on how DNA is controlled (the activation or deactivation of select genes), but it has no power over the sequence itself.
An obvious question arises: are epigenetic changes inheritable? To tackle this question, we have to understand the concept of epigenetic inheritance. The subject remains very controversial in the case of mammals.
During the study, the researchers found out that the worm’s ability to search for food is influenced by information inherited from the neurons of the ancestors, which leads to the epigenetic silencing of a select gene in the case of the successor. As expected, the study made a splash in the scientific community, and many researchers were surprised by the claims.