The children of people who have experienced extremely traumatic events are more likely to develop mental health problems.
And new research shows this is because experiencing trauma leads to changes in the sperm.
These changes can cause a man’s children to develop bipolar disorder and are so strong they can even influence the man’s grandchildren.
Psychologists have long known that traumatic experiences can induce behavioural disorders that are passed down from one generation to the next.
However, they are only just beginning to understand how this happens.
Researchers at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich now think they have come one step closer to understanding how the effects of traumas can be passed down the generations.
The researchers found that short RNA molecules – molecules that perform a wide range of vital roles in the body - are made from DNA by enzymes that read specific sections of the DNA and use them as template to produce corresponding RNAs.
Other enzymes then trim these RNAs into mature forms.
Cells naturally contain a large number of different short RNA molecules called microRNAs.
They have regulatory functions, such as controlling how many copies of a particular protein are made.
The researchers studied the number and kind of microRNAs expressed by adult mice exposed to traumatic conditions in early life and compared them with non-traumatised mice.
They discovered that traumatic stress alters the amount of several microRNAs in the blood, brain and sperm – while some microRNAs were produced in excess, others were lower than in the corresponding tissues or cells of control animals.
These alterations resulted in misregulation of cellular processes normally controlled by these microRNAs.
After traumatic experiences, the mice behaved markedly differently - they partly lost their natural aversion to open spaces and bright light and showed symptoms of depression.
Men who have experienced traumatic events are more likely to have children with mental health problems
These behavioural symptoms were also transferred to the next generation via sperm, even though the offspring were not exposed to any traumatic stress themselves.
The metabolisms of the offspring of stressed mice were also impaired - their insulin and blood sugar levels were lower than in the offspring of non-traumatised parents.
‘We were able to demonstrate for the first time that traumatic experiences affect metabolism in the long-term and that these changes are hereditary,’ said Professor Isabelle Mansuy.
‘With the imbalance in microRNAs in sperm, we have discovered a key factor through which trauma can be passed on.’
However, certain questions remain open, such as how the dysregulation in short RNAs comes about.
Professor Mansuy said: ‘Most likely, it is part of a chain of events that begins with the body producing too many stress hormones.’
Importantly, acquired traits other than those induced by trauma could also be inherited through similar mechanisms, the researcher suspects.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2611317/How-trauma-life-passed-SPERM-affecting-mental-health-future-generations.html#ixzz4sS2IHIkd
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Lissa Rankin, MD is an OB/GYN physician, author, keynote speaker, consultant to health care visionaries, professional artist, and founder of the women's health and wellness community OwningPink.com. Discouraged by the broken, patriarchal health care system, she left her medical practice in 2007 only to realize that you can quit your job, but you can't quit your calling. This epiphany launched her on a journey of discovery that led her to become a leader in the field of mind/body medicine, which she blogs about at OwningPink.com and is writing about in her third book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013).
She teaches both patients and health care professionals how to make the body ripe for miracles by healing the mind and being healthy in all aspects of life, not just by promoting healthy behaviors like good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep, but by encouraging health and authenticity in relationships, work, creative expression, spirituality, sexuality, finances, and living environment. She is leading a revolution to feminize how health care is received and delivered by encouraging collaboration, fostering self-healing, reconnecting health care and spirituality, empowering patients to tap into the mind's power to heal the body, and encouraging women not to settle for being merely well, but to strive for living vital, joyful, authentic lives full of "mojo."
When not spreading the word, she chills out, paints, does yoga, and hikes in Marin County, CA with her husband and daughter.