A study led by researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney has revealed that obese male mice can pass on metabolic phenotypes not only to their children, but also to their granddchildren.

Their work was published online in the journal Molecular Metabolism last month and has significant implications if it translates to humans.

A/Prof Catherine Suter, Prof Mark Febbraio and Dr Jennifer Cropley

While it is understood that metabolic phenotypes induced by parental obesity can be passed from one generation to the next, independent of the inherited DNA sequence, this study is the first to demonstrate that altered phenotypes can be inherited by a second generation, without direct exposure to obesity, even as germ cells.

In this study the researchers, who include AEpiA members A/Prof Cath Suter, Dr Jennifer Cropley and Dr Sally Eaton, demonstrate a potential mechanism of transgenerational inheritance involving small noncoding RNAs.

If these results translate to humans, they suggest that children of obese fathers, even if they themselves maintain heathy eating habits, can pass on metabolic dysfunction to their own children.

With almost two-thirds of the adult Australian population currently overweight or obese, this study attracted national as well as international media attention. The Sydney Morning Herald featured a news article about the study and Dr Cropley was interviewed for BBC world news.

Read more on the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute website.