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New mouse study shows genes aren’t only way to pass obesity to next generation

From the color of our eyes to our odds of developing cancer, we’re all shaped by the genetic legacy of our ancestors. But a new study in mice provides the clearest evidence yet that acquired traits can be passed down from one generation to the next in mammals without DNA changes, challenging centuries of evolutionary dogma and raising fresh questions about the factors that affect our health.

Scientists created mice that were obese or had high cholesterol, not through tinkering with the animals’ genetic code, but by making little chemical modifications that changed which genes were active without altering the DNA sequence. Both these modifications and their metabolic effects were shown to have passed down for at least three to six generations — something scientists once assumed was impossible.

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