Stress is perfectly natural and necessary for our body, participating in defense mechanisms that allow us to be alert and react to situations of imminent danger. But it is interesting to note that there are people more predisposed to stress than others. Logically, the environment and lifestyle are decisive in this regard, although genetic factors always play a key role as well. And recently it has been discovered that stress is transmitted from parent to child through sperm.
Could predisposition to stress be hereditary?
In recent decades, different investigations have been evaluating the hypothesis that stress could have a hereditary variable. In this context, the results of a recent study seem to reinforce the theory of stress transfer through the epigenetics.
Epigenetics studies precisely the alterations in the expression of genes that are heritable and cannot be attributed to modifications in the DNA sequence. One of the research fields in this area focuses on how stressful situations can alter gene expression.
Some studies had already shown that stress can promote changes in genes that lead to alterations in behavior. And the most striking thing is that these behavioral alterations, in turn, can be transmitted from generation to generation.
In other words, this would suggest that stress is passed from parent to child, as well as adaptive behaviors generated by exposure to stressful events. But, in what way would this stress-associated “genetic load” be transmitted?
How is stress transmitted from parent to child through sperm?
Although the exact answer to the previous question is not known, the clue could be in the sperm. A study published in 2020 in the magazine Nature Communications, suggested that stress is capable of causing changes in the cellular components involved in the development of sperm.
Consequently, it could also alter the way sperm influence behaviors associated with stress from generation to generation. Now, a new study by American scientists shows that male mice with a greater predisposition to stress transmit these behaviors to their children through sperm.
These mice were exposed to chronic stress for ten consecutive days. The researchers then evaluated their responses to stressful events and those of their offspring as well. In this way, they have observed that the “daughter mice” showed behaviors associated with stress very similar to those of their parents.
On the other hand, mice that showed greater resistance to stress have also transmitted this condition to their offspring. This discovery would not only confirm that stressful experiences are capable of modifying gene expression, but also that stress is transmitted from parent to child through sperm.