PERREAULT Magazine AUG | SEP - Page 73

Perreault Magazine - 73 -

The mother’s internal environment is responsible for how the child’s genes are expressed. In the early stage of life, the first 40 weeks, the shaping of the characteristics in the infant being birthed begins.

In the world's first study, scientists at the University of Southampton measured how much a baby's development in the womb is determined by the DNA inherited from the parents, as compared with the mother's nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Epigenetics, through patterns of DNA methylation, can determine how the underlying DNA code can be read by the cells, and thus whether a baby's development in the womb holds risks of obesity, heart disease, lung and breast cancers or completely vibrant health later in life. This research provides important new evidence that the fixed DNA sequence in the genes of the fetus have only a modest influence on its epigenetic profile at birth. .

A child conceived using a donor egg receives its DNA from the donor of the egg. The fetus gets the “instructions” on its development from the DNA of the woman who carries the baby to term.

This means that a baby conceived using a donor egg has 3 biological parents: a father, the egg donor and the woman that carries the pregnancy. This confirms that the birth mother has an influence over the child’s development.

Nature and Nurture

In the past it was believed the uterus was simply an incubator. However, science has now shown this to be otherwise. The most important aspect of all pregnancies, including egg donation pregnancies, is that as the fetus grows, every cell in the developing body is built out of the pregnant mother’s body. Tissue from her uterine lining contributes to the formation of the placenta, which will bond the mother to her child.

Most of the variation between babies arises from interactions between the epigenetic environment experienced in the womb and the genetic information inherited from the parents. Nature Genetics just published a meta-¬analysis examining 50 years of studies of twins. On average, any particular trait or disease in an individual, is about 50 percent influenced by environment and 50 percent influenced by genes.

Jeffrey Craig, who studies epigenetics at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, has analyzed the epigenetic profiles of 34 identical and fraternal twins at birth. He discovered that the epigenetic profile of one newborn twin was more similar to an unrelated baby than to the identical twin with whom that baby shared a womb. Structural differences in the womb and even the distance from the mother’s essential heartbeat may account for this.

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