Midwives and Epigenetics

Horizontal “steps” inside spiral ladder of DNA – bases – can be chemically modified, changing how genes work not only in the organism but in its descendants

Call the midwife” is a very popular in Britain BBC drama about nuns and midwives working in 1950s London. Heidi Thomas – screenwriter for the show.

“Radio Times” –  a British weekly TV programme listings magazine – recently published interview with Heidi Thomas in which she says “…epigenetics, which believes our brains are imprinted by the experience of earlier generations…” (p.15). It does not believe that at all.
Epigenetics studies inheritance of changes in  genes not caused by mutations. If you look at the DNA, the bits inside the helix aquires chemical modification (epigenetic changes) or changed to different bits (mutations). A new human is a combination of two parental cells, which transfer DNA with modifications but not anything to do with future human brain function.
We inherit genes, not brain. The genes can be inactivated during an organism’s life and they will work differently in the next generation. For example my mother, exposed in the womb to the low nutrient conditions during the Second World War has developed type II diabetes. This happened likely due to epigenetic modification of her genes, because our family has no history of diabetes.  As I was born in better, fatter 70s, I am not diabetic and there is no way for me to have any memories about the war or any other heritable changes in the brain.
P.S. In case anybody wonders why I don’t regularly update the blog. There is a Russian saying “only a bad private doesn’t dream of becoming a general”.  A I am a good blogger – I am writing an e-book about gene expression.

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