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Problems From Folic Acid Deficiencies Are Passed To Future Generations

October 2, 2013: 12:00 AM EST
A lack of folic acid in a parent’s diet can have a rippling effect through future generations, according to a study in mice. Folic acid deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to birth defects or low birth weight, though scientists are not sure why. For the study, mice bred with a mutated MTRR gene (important to folic acid metabolism) were mated with normal mice. Some of the fetuses developed abnormalities such as heart defects and spina bifida. Siblings without defects were then mated with normal mice, and the same problems occurred. This was repeated for two more generations, even though the mutation was not passed on in the DNA, but in the gene-switching system, an “epigenetic” phenomenon.
Nisha Padmanabhan et al., "Mutation in Folate Metabolism Causes Epigenetic Instability and Transgenerational Effects on Development", Cell Magazine, October 02, 2013, © Elsevier Inc
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