Science Pick: Traits Can Be Inherited, with No DNA

Elise Miller
Director

An article from Stone Hearth News is titled “Traits can be inherited, with no DNA: Columbia University Medical Center research.”

This article struck me because of its possible implications for new areas of environmental health research beyond epigenetics. The study focused on “viral-silencing agents” that can be passed down to progeny circumventing the DNA process of inheriting traits that has long dominated the science of hereditary genetics. These agents, known as viRNAs, are able to turn off a virus’ capacity to take over a cell and thereby boost the immune systems of subsequent generations. If these agents can also be influenced by exposures to environmental contaminants, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, then this could explain why some traits, apparently not associated with the genome, could be inherited. This may mean that the important research being undertaken on gene-environment interactions may now need to include studies that focus on RNA-environment interactions.