If you have diabetes, or cancer or even heart problems, maybe you should blame it on your dad's behaviour or environment. Or even your grandfather's. That's because, in recent years, scientists have shown that, before his offspring are even conceived, a father's life experiences involving food, drugs, exposure to toxic products and even stress can affect the development and health not only of his children, but even of his grandchildren.
But, despite a decade of work in the area, scientists haven't been able to understand much about how this transmission of environmental memories over several generations takes place. McGill researchers and their Swiss collaborators think that they have now found a key part of the molecular puzzle. They have discovered that proteins known as histones, which have attracted relatively little attention until now, may play a crucial role in the process.
They believe that this finding, which they describe in a paper just published in Science, has the potential to profoundly change our understanding of how we inherit things. That's because the researchers show that there is something apart from DNA that plays an important role in inheritance in general, and could determine whether a father's children and grandchildren will be healthy or not.