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Genetics: Parental Influence

Parental Age, Maternal Nutrition

Studies examining the factors that affect both longevity and the diseases associated with aging have traditionally focused on the interaction of inheritance (genetics) and lifestyle (environment) on adults. Specific genetic backgrounds have been demonstrated to be risk factors for diseases that occur later in adult life, such as some types of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. Similarly, certain environmental factors, such as a poor diet, have also been demonstrated to have detrimental physiological effects, leading to an increased incidence of strokes, diabetes, heart disease, or other maladies. Conversely, certain interventions, such as caloric restriction in adult animals, can dramatically extend longevity. However, while the impact of genetics and environment on the occurrence of age-related processes has been extensively studied in adults, the impact of these factors during early developmental events is not so well known. For example, is it possible that parental age at conception can have an influence on the course of aging in the succeeding generation? Can an environmental effect, such as malnutrition, have permanent consequences on offspring if it occurs during or immediately after gestation? What, in fact, are the ramifications of parental age and maternal nutrition on disease and longevity in offspring, and what potential mechanisms underlie these effects?

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2