Parents could play an important role for the prevention of diabetes. DZD scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown that diet-induced obesity and diabetes can be epigenetically* inherited by the offspring.
For this study, Prof. Martin Hrabě de Angelis, Prof. Johannes Beckers and colleagues used mice that had become obese and had developed type 2 diabetes due to a high-fat diet. Their offspring were obtained solely through in vitro fertilization (IVF) from isolated oocytes and sperm, so that changes in the offspring could only be passed on via these cells. The offspring were carried and born by healthy surrogate mothers. The results showed that both oocytes and sperm passed on epigenetic information, which particularly in the female offspring led to severe obesity. In the male offspring, by contrast, the blood glucose level was more affected than in the female siblings.
This kind of epigenetic inheritance of a metabolic disorder due to an unhealthy diet could be another major cause for the dramatic global increase in the prevalence of diabetes. Since epigenetic inheritance – as opposed to genetic inheritance - is in principle reversible, new possibilities to influence the development of obesity and diabetes arise from these observations.
*Epigenetics: In contrast to genetics, the term epigenetics refers to the inheritance of traits that are not determined in the primary sequence of the DNA (the genes).
Huypens, P. et al. Epigenetic germline inheritance of diet induced obesity and insulin resistance. doi: 10.1038/ng.3527. Nature Genetics. March 14, 2016
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