Can we just pass on the good genes?
Thinking about starting a family is an exciting time. Imagining whether your child will have your blue eyes or your partner's red hair is a great mystery for 9 months or more.
But the health of our kids is more than their physical attributes. In falling pregnant and growing a child, we are also building their entire genetics. The blueprint for their future and their health; including their risks for certain chronic conditions.
So could we as potential future parents selectively choose which genes we pass on? Can we help lower our child's risk for certain hereditary conditions or predispositions?
The answer is a ‘sort of’.
Without assisted reproductive treatments, the genes that are passed on from a Mother and Father are randomly selected. When sex cells (eggs & sperm) are made through the process of meiosis, the splitting of the gene pairs is pretty much random.
However, science is rapidly developing and in the future it might be possible to change this. Either through IVF preimplantation genetic screening or something more drastic involving genomic editing. Obviously there are other ethical factors to consider here and we are not suggesting this is necessary or ideal for most couples.
However, understanding your own epigenetics can help to influence the epigenetics of your future children. Epigenetics, simplified, is the study of biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off. This means once you’ve identified “good” genes and “less-than-ideal” genes, you can adopt behaviours that help with the passing on beneficial gene regulation patterns.
For instance, children who had parents that were physically active whilst conceiving show beneficial patterns of gene regulation.
For this reason, it makes sense to join Edison before pregnancy to pass on your good epigenetics. Once a client identifies which of their genes show associated increased risk of negative health conditions, they can adopt lifestyle behaviours to help switch off the expression of these genes. It also enables a person to apply their efforts where they are most needed. We can’t change all of our genetics - nor would we want to - but we can adopt healthy behaviours to support healthy conception and embryos.
Edison can also help you identify serious genetic risks which could inform your decisions around how you conceive. We can help you identify if you are a ‘carrier’ for any genetic diseases. A carrier has one copy of a genetic variation that causes a disease, but two copies are needed for the disease to manifest. This is especially important when both parents are carriers for the same disease. In this case it would be extremely beneficial to have this information made available. The parents could then use IVF and select for embryos that don't carry two copies of the disease-causing variation. An example where this might be needed would be to prevent cystic fibrosis.
If you are thinking of having a child and would like to know more, get in touch with us at edisonclinic.co.nz